Saturday, 30 November 2013

Marble mashup

At last, I feel inspired to start work on a new piece. I've continued to collect photos of interesting nude poses on my Pinterest page and recently found a couple of pictures that I think might work well together.

The first piece is a marble sculpture by Cicero D'Avila. The torso and legs will prove an interesting challenge to reproduce, but the hands are not ideally placed for 3D printing because of the way the fingers are pointing down.

The second picture was a recent find which I think I can use to create the arm pose for my new design. I couldn't find information about the photographer - if you know, please pass the details on and I'll credit them.

Creating the pose wasn't too difficult and took me only a couple of hours. Project Miller is a fantastic new tool in my toolkit which hugely simplifies the process of making a 3D object printable. It can automatically wrap the model in a single manifold mesh which eliminates all of the problems with hair, eyes, teeth and folded limbs, at a single stroke.

I then took the raw model into Blender and began the process of sculpting in some additional details in the hair. 

The next step was to find the best way of slicing and supporting the model ready for 3D printing. this time I decided to give Cura a try. Cura is an extremely fast slicer written by David Braam of Ultimaker. When I'm evaluating a sliced model that needs support, I look for the right amount of support material with an adequate gap between the support and the model so that it will break away with the minimum of effort.

My first attempt at printing this model, which I have named Cicero for convenience, used a light grey PLA and took over 8 hours to print. The lower half started well but sadly the head and arms are not as smooth and seem covered in a regular indentation. The pose looks great though and is definitely one I would consider using again.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Golden Sun

I had this idea that I wanted to try and print a version of Sun Worship using gold filament. I had read some good things about the gold PLA from Faberdashery so I decided to give it a try.

First though, I decided to spend some time rebuilding the pose from scratch. I've also been getting better at using the Sculpt tool in Blender and wanted to have another go at a better hairstyle. Here she is in Blender.

Getting the hands and feet to sit absolutely flat on the floor really helps to keep the print stable.
Good adhesion to the print bed is vital when printing tall sloping limbs without support. Here you can see the point just before the arm connects to the shoulder - perfectly level and no warping thanks to a cooling fan.

The final print came out even better than I had hoped for. My recent upgrades to the nozzle and belts seem to be giving me very nice smooth prints now. And of course, being PLA, acetone vapour baths are not an option - this glossy finish is straight off the printer.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Body Language

I have just completed one of my best projects so far. It was inspired by another great Bruno Birkhofer photo called Body Language.

I took special care with the pose modelling to capture the lines as faithfully as possible, carefully placing the limbs as close as possible to each other without overlapping. I reused a short hair style of my own creation.

Here is a screenshot of my version in Blender.

The next important step was deciding how to print it and what kind of support to generate. I used Kisslicer to generate the printer files again, because although a new version of Slic3r has just come out with supposedly much improved support generation, I haven't had time to test it yet.

I decided to to make one change from the settings I used for the previous Birkhofer print and that was so go up from Medium to Dense for the support layer, just to see what would happen.

The other genius idea I had was to turn the print vertically for printing, which changed the position and amount of support material required. If I had printed the model exactly as it appears in the picture above, all of the chest and head would have need support underneath it. By rotating it to a much more vertical angle almost none was needed in these areas.

I was so impressed by the new settings that decided to make another video of the support removal process. You can see how my preferred tool is a flat bladed screwdriver which breaks the weak bonds between model and support with less risk of damage to the delicate areas. The support was certainly more dense than before and, in my  view, held the model better whilst still coming away cleanly.

Support removal video

Before and after smoothing

Finished print

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bruno Birkhofer

Last year, Thingiverse member, richgain, demonstrated the use of a camera and a 3D printer to make copies of the works of great artists like Auguste Rodin when he published his version of Crouching Woman. The resolution is not great and his method of using point cloud renderings from multiple photos loses a lot of the fine details but the essence of the piece is still there in the lines that the body describes. 
This, to me, is the point of sculpture as art.

One of the artists I have recently discovered during my research is fashion photographer, Bruno Birkhofer. I share his passion for the artistic shapes and lines that can be described by the body held in a beautiful or unusual pose. He captures his models photographically and freezes the pose in time but also selects just one angle from which the model will be viewed. My attempts to convert these great photos into 3D models aim to allow these forms to be appreciated from any direction and angle.

Looking back over the work I have done so far allowed me to reflect that one of the pieces I most enjoyed creating was Metamorphosis. I still think it's a strikingly dramatic pose. So, when I saw this Bruno Birkhofer picture I immediately recognised an opportunity for a new sculpture.

I have started work on the pose and, although it still needs some refinement, I'm pleased with the way it's progressing. The next stage is to begin cleaning up the mesh to make it printable and finish working on the hair.

I decided to print the model at a higher resolution than I used for Recline and opted for a 0.15 mm layer height. The print came out very well with only the underside of the horizontal surfaces looking rather ragged. This should improve with the final smoothing in acetone vapour. 

Before smoothing

The finished sculpture

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Recline further

I decided to persevere with Recline and try to fix some of the problems.

Following an invitation from Sublime to try his calculator (see the comments in Recline), I learned that my setup could work better at 0.2 mm layer height if I increased the extrusion width from 0.4 to 0.48 mm. That should certainly help to improve layer bonding somewhat.

I also reasoned that the delamination in the first print had been caused by excessive part cooling with the fan. I know, I know. ABS isn't supposed to need a cooling fan but I still believe that with steep overhangs it just prints a bit better with one; I just had it turned up a bit too high.
The next problem to work on was the fingers. I started another couple of prints and both times the fingers failed again. Something different was going on here.

I thought about this for a long time and eventually came up with three ideas for possible solutions.
Firstly, the way that I had splayed the fingers out made the overhang angle more than 45 degrees. Changing the pose slightly to make the fingers more vertical should help.
Secondly, I had changed the support gap setting in Kisslicer from 0.5 mm to 1 mm to try and make it easier to break away; I suspected that this was actually making the support less supportive, so I put it back to 0.5 mm.

Finally, it dawned on me that the only thing supporting the fingers was the weak interface layer attaching them to the raft. This hadn't been a problem with Curl because there were relatively large areas attached to the raft but this print was quite literally clinging on by its fingertips, and in the end the lateral drag of hot plastic from the rapidly moving nozzle was proving too great for the weak bonds. The solution for this print was to abandon the raft and find a better way to get the fingertips to stick to the bed. 

One option I considered was to print the model on a plinth. This would provide the strongest and most reliable base but wasn't really in keeping with the rest of the series so I decided to keep it in reserve. 
Eventually I resorted to my favourite method which has worked well in the past. I went back into Blender, opened the model in point edit mode and used 'Box select' to highlight all the points in the bottom millimeter of the model and then used Scale Z 0 (zero) to flatten the bottom of the model and finally moved all the selected points up a little to the most natural position.
A liberal splash of ABS juice on the printbed and I was ready to have another go.

This time it went much better. No serious delamination at all and the fingers are looking much more solid. The left thumb appears to have shifted and reconnected at the base, but this should be relatively easy to repair.

Now I just need some time to do the support removal and acetone vapour bath.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Here's my new project.  I've started a collection of potential sculptures on Pinterest and, having printed several curled up models, I fancied trying a more open, reclining pose like this one.  I have now discovered that this is one of the 'Square Nudes' series by Carsten Witte.

The amount of support material required should be fairly minimal although the steep angle under the upper back may need some.  Additionally, the palms of the hands are raised off the ground and will also need supporting. 
Another of the challenges will be to deal with the area where the thighs and calves will inevitably overlap after posing the model.

More to follow ...

Turns out that I still haven't quite got this 3D printing lark completely sussed yet. The modelling went quite well. I even broke with tradition and tried leaving the mouth open a bit to allow the front teeth to show. This, in turn, meant having to devise a different technique for closing off the open edges in the mouth area.

As usual, I opted to use Kisslicer to generate the gcode because I still find that it produces the best support material. The problems started when I began to print. In spite of the fact that I was using the same settings as I have for all my other prints (ABS at 240C, 0.2 mm layer height, 0.4 mm line width), the extrusion seemed thinner than usual and the inter-layer bonding was poor. The model finally appeared from the build chamber with several large cracks including a complete break in one of the arms.

The other major problem was that the fingers appeared to be poorly formed and looking as though they might come away with the support material. I haven't tried removing the support yet, due to lack of time, but I really don't hold out much hope for saving this print. 

One of the factors that has changed is my new hot end which has a 0.4 mm nozzle, whereas my previous one had a 0.5 mm diameter hole. Slic3r includes a place to enter the diameter of your nozzle but apparently Kisslicer does not.  I have never quite understood the logic of this, so I don't really know whether it could be a possible factor in explaining the latest failure.

I'll probably give it another try and maybe just turn up the flow rate a bit.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


You may remember that I found some interesting pictures on the CG Artists forum. One of the was called a painting by Edward McEvenue based a photo called girl-6 by buzillo.

I had a go at printing a model of her in the grey ABS which I had been using recently but was disappointed to see that the print was badly split in several places.


I have been reading about some people who have been experimenting with printing in a new nylon material called Taulman 618. One of the claimed advantages is its superior layer bonding with greater resistance to delaminating. I thought I would give it a try.

So, what are my first impressions of printing with nylon?

  • No odour
  • Sticks well to blue painter's tape even on a cold bed
  • Nice smooth surface with a lovely sheen
  • No delamination at all
  • Much more flexible (less risk of breaking)


  • Support material is harder to remove
  • Strings are tricky to remove
  • No way of smoothing the surface yet
  • Much more flexible (less statue like, more bendy toy)

Will I be using it again?

Bridge printed

My test print of Bridge was successful at first sight, but on closer inspection the leotard had been only partially printed, particularly across the back where it was rather messy. In other places, it was a completely separate and rather fragile layer which started to come away as I removed the support material. So, in summary, my first faltering steps with printing clothing had been a bit of a failure. I decided to try and recover an otherwise good print by breaking away the remnants of the leotard.
A bit of scraping with a knife and an acetone vapour bath later, and I had another nice looking model.

Before removal of support material and leotard fragments

Thursday, 25 April 2013

On show in London

If you are lucky enough to be able to attend the opening of the new iMakr 3D Printer Store in London  on 30th April keep an eye out for these two pieces which are currently on loan and should be on display. Let me know what you think if you see them there.

Oh, and look out for me as well. I'm planning to be there too!

Check out this video of the iMakr shop. You can see these two sculptures in the background at 1:30. 

Monday, 22 April 2013


I've been seeking inspiration for my next prints. Pinterest has some interesting collections of artistic nude photos (although it claims that it doesn't allow them) and I'm sure I will choose one of theirs soon. However, another great resource is DeviantArt, a site I have followed on and off for some years. It was there that I found a great shot by TarMoo called Art Nude Symmetry.

It's quite a striking photo which inspired me to try and reproduce the pose which I have decided to call 'Bridge'.

With its minimal points of contact and absolute requirement for support material, it was clear that I would need to start with a raft and, ideally, print in ABS. Whilst photos can only be seen from the specific angle selected by the photographer, sculptures can be viewed from any angle chosen by the viewer. Unusually for me, I decided that this particular model deserved a leotard to protect her modesty. I'll see how the print turns out and decide whether to do a fully nude version later.
The model in this photo has her hair in a simple bun which works well for this image. I tried making a bun but I didn't like the look of it. I also tried short and long hair styles but they didn't really work with this heads-down position. At the moment the model doesn't have hair but, again, I may decide to review this after the first test print.