Dec 16, 2015 | By Kira

Everyone loves receiving personal letters and packages in the mail, however despite their attempts to pull at our heartstrings, commercial greeting cards à-la-Hallmark are often dispassionately generic, which in a way, defeats the very purpose of good old-fashioned personal correspondence. With the holidays fast approaching, a much more fun, personal, and creative way to reach out to neighbours, friends and loved ones is with hand-made cards. And an easy way to decorate them? Customized stamps, made with freely downloadable software and a 3D printer. Luckily, maker Chris Slyka has put together a handy and easy-to-follow tutorial that shows you exactly how to get started.

As Slyka explains in his Make: magazine lesson, there is a growing resurgence of interest in classic printing techniques like relief printing and letterpress, and 3D printing technology is well-suited to making things like custom printing plates, moveable type, and stamps much easier and less time-consuming than traditional artisanal methods. To prove his point, he created a series of custom stamps directly from vector images using Inksape and OpenSCAD—both of which happen to be totally free.

Inkscape is used to edit the vector image—a simple black and white drawing reduced to its most basic lines and curves—while OpenSCAD generates an STL file for 3D printing. “The feature that makes OpenSCAD perfect for this project is that it can easily extrude 3D objects from 2D vector graphics, so we can generate a printable STL file from an SVG image with just a few lines of code,” explained Slyka. With those two programs at the ready (note that both OpenSCAD and OpenSCAD DXF Exporter are required), it’s time to get started.

The first step is to choose your image. Because this is a stamp, simple shapes that are easily recognizable in pure black and white without any small details work best. As a tip, Slyka recommends ensuring that the thickness of the thinner lines are greater than the nozzle size of your 3D printer extruder. With Christmas coming up, he chose a graphic-y Christmas tree, which would be 3D printed onto a 4x4” square and attached to a 4x4x4x” wooden handle. In terms of the handle, you could use pre-made stamp handles, wooden cubes from the craft store (as Slyka does), or even 3D print your own custom-fit handle. The only other materials needed are glue, some sandpaper or a file, and the ink pad of your choice.

In the next steps of the tutorial, Slyka explains how to set up your document size in Inkscape, turn the image into a single path, and then export it to DXF. Once you are ready to generate an STL file, it’s time to open up OpenSCAD and start editing the thickness and other values in the code. At this point, it is also necessary to add a base plat to the stamp so that it has a solid backing to attach to the handle.

Finally, it’s time to export that STL and get to printing. Slyka’s workflow involves slicing and printing with Slic3r and Pronterface, using white PLA at 195°C with a layer height of 0.2mm on a Printrbot Play, but that will all depend on your own makerspace setup. Once printed, Slyka provides some tips for getting the profile of the stamp as smooth as possible so that it makes good contact with the paper. To sum up: tape the stamp to the handle and get to sanding. In terms of assembly, just peel of your tape, clean up the remaining dust, and glue your creation to the handle.

That’s it! You have a 3D printed, custom-made stamp. Although this PLA-based stamp will be much harder than traditional rubber stamps, you can use something softer under the paper you’re stamping, such as a piece of cardboard, to make things a little easier. The stiff plastic stamps will also work great on cloth or other soft materials (in light of that, keep them away from children and your pristine cream colored couch.)

The holidays are a great time of year to channel your inner Martha Stewart and get crafty, and this great 3D printed custom stamp tutorial could easily be adapted to just about any occasion.  “If you have access to a printing press, you can use your own 3D printed printing plates to create custom postcards, greeting cards, beer coasters and other artwork,” explained Slyka. “It’s a lot of fun to bring old technology like relief printing back to life using a modern technology like 3D printing, and make them possible to a wider audience.” We love the combination of old-tech-meets-new, and stamping is a great way to unleash your inner creativity through home decorations, gifts, or just playtime with the family. Thanks for the tutorial, Chris!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Stathis D wrote at 12/19/2015 11:42:00 AM:

Of course you can use some semi-rigid filament that will perfectly match the mechanical properties of rubber stamp material. PLA is totally unsuitable for this kind of application (too hard and too brittle). The beauty of FDM process is there are thousands of thermoplastic materials out there suitable for 3D printing ( only a small fraction have been converted for 3D printing ) that other 3D printing processes like SLA can only dream about.

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