Nov 27, 2015 | By Kira

Artist, animator, award-winning filmmaker and 3D designer Joaquin Baldwin has this week released two complete series of 3D printed planters for air plants that are part mathematics, part organic structures, and entirely works of art. For the Bulbophyllum Series and the Radioloaria Series, which was just released today, Baldwin created new computer-generated species, each with an individual scientific name and style, which you can now order and own through Shapeways’ 3D printing service.

Radiolaria Papillae Planter

Much of the weighty or groundbreaking news we cover in the 3D printing industry has to do with aerospace manufacturing, complex scientific breakthroughs, or other industrial or utilitarian 3D printing applications. Perhaps that is what makes the more creative and unexpected uses of 3D printing technology, such as Joaquin Baldwin’s designs for 3D printed floating planters, so compelling. After talking with him to learn about his inspiration and design process, I remain thoroughly impressed.

First off is the Bulbophyllum Series, which draws on the exuberant shapes of orchids, while embracing the clean lines of mathematical precision. The series consists of Simplex, Mobius, Ondulatus, Astrum, Gracilis, and Plurispora. “Bulbophyllum is mostly inspired by shapes found in orchids and other bulbous plants. I like mathematical shapes, but I also like to add some degree of distortion so they feel more organic and resemble living organisms,” Baldwin told “It was a trial an error process to get shapes that fit within the concept of the series, a lot of other cool shapes didn't make the cut.”

Bulbophyllum Mobius Planter

The second series, Radiolaria, was inspired by the radially symmetrical shapes of microscopic, fossilized protozoa. The series consists of Tetrahedra, Geodesica, Vertebralia, Platonica, and Papillae. Not exactly up-to-date on my microbiology, I looked up Radiolaria, which are defined as protozoa that produce intricate mineral skeletons with many needle-like pseudopodia supported by bundles of microtubules, which aid in the radiolarian’s buoyancy…that description didn’t help me too much, but Baldwin was able to explain a little further:

“[Radioalaria] are incredibly polygonal and regular in shape, and they look like bony structures which made a good translation to the textured, white, semi-translucent vinyl material. One of them (Geodesica) is basically a pure representation of a common radiolarian, while the others are fictionalized interpretations of their symmetrical shapes.”

In order to create these intricate, 3D printable designs, Baldwin modeled everything in Autodesk’s Maya. “Imagine a spirograph, but in 3D. It's like having multiple spheres that rotate around each other, and a point on the smaller sphere traces a path in the air creating a thin wire. By using multiples of 180 for the rotations, one gets shapes that eventually connect this spinning wire back to its origin, creating a very complex looping shape in the air and making it solid and therefore printable. The organic part of the modeling comes later, as I attach appendages, distort the shapes, add some extra details, and bend things around to my liking.”

“I didn’t actually write any code,” he continued. “What I did was create a clever rig of moving parts that would give me the shapes I wanted. By changing the rotation amounts, and distance between different parts of the rig, I would get very interesting results...For the radiolarians, it was just a lot of heavy modeling techniques, no math or rigs, just smart use of extrusions and platonic solids.”

Radiolaria Vertebralia Planter

Bulbophyllum Gracilis Planter

The entire process of creating both complete series took three months of designing, manual checkups, and several failed prototypes that ultimately didn’t make the cut. He also selected the perfect Tillandsias (air plants) to compliment each model.

Since the level of detail required to 3D print the models is more than almost any desktop 3D printer can achieve, Baldwin decided to use Shapeways’ 3D printing services to make the planters available to consumers, with prices ranging from around $45-75 for pieces 3D printed in strong and flexible nylon plastic. He also intends to sell them as art pieces to galleries, stores, and at local art fairs.

Currently, Baldwin works at the Walt Disney Animation Studios as a digital cinematographer, and has previously animated and directed several award-winning short films. Though he hasn’t used 3D printing in his filmmaking work (yet), he told us that he sees 3D modeling and printing as a challenging artistic medium: “I tend to use it to create geeky, weird sculptures. Ideas and concepts that I haven’t seen done, and I want to have for myself. It’s a challenge; I think of a concept, and try to figure out if I could make it on my own.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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