Thinking Outside of the 3D Box

Expanding Your Imagination Beyond a 3D Print


As your experience increases with your 3D printer you will eventually want to learn to design your own models rather than buying or downloading them from repositories such as Thingiverse. There will be custom items you want and it will require you to create them yourself. When you are ready there are several free programs out there you can use for drawing 3D models such as Blender, Autodesk Fusion, or Autodesk123D Design. You can find a quick review of these in my last Blog. Once you make the leap to designing your own prints the world is your oyster.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is not yet a cost-effective way to mass produce objects. Therefore these machines at first glance may seem to have a limited use for only hobbyist like myself that may design parts for limited one time uses on a Remote Control (RC) planes or cars. However, with a little 3D imagination and a little bit of effort you can increase your production and gain a better cost basis as well as open an entirely new world of materials in which to create your models.

3D printing shines in the prototype arena. By combining your 3D printer with other techniques you can increase production of your design as well as change the look and feel of it with very little effort. This technique allows you to produce your designs in a vast array of different materials. For example, let’s say that you are the artistic type and have designed a figurine that you would love to sell at the local flea market. You would have to spend hours and lots of plastic to be able to make 10 figurines on your 3D printer; However…what if you created and 3D printed your figurine and then cast it into a latex mold? You could then use your mold to cast your creation in different materials as well as do so at an accelerated rate. If you are interested in learning how simple it is to make a latex mold and cast an object, take a look at this video¬†in which a figurine is used to make a latex mold and cast a new figurine. There are countless other videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to create a latex mold, not just of a figurine.

Once you have your latex mold completed, it is just a matter of selecting the material for your new figurine. I have made several of these latex molds and cast objects in clear plastic resin which have turned out great! The picture at the top of the article is of a casting I made from a Styrofoam skull purchased from the local hobby store for about $5.00. I then made the latex mold seen below and used a clear plastic resin to cast the skull…pretty cool huh?


I purchase my latex and resin from Smooth-on. They carry a large selection of mold making material and have a library of “how to” videos for your learning experience!

Cheers and happy printing!

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