Metal filler works wonders with ABS filament

An as-yet-untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture by Phoenix artist Kevin Caron.Since I moved my 3D Systems CubeX 3D printer down to the studio, I’ve been able to play with it while I’m in the office cooling down – Arizona summers are really brutal when you work with fire and wear heavy protective gear. The CubeX gives me another way to play that keeps me under 1000 degrees.

One reason I hang onto this old 3D printer – it was the first one I owned – is that it prints ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament (the same stuff used in Lego bricks), which is petroleum-based. Although I mostly print in PLA (polylactic acid), ABS lets me do some things I can’t do with PLA.

In particular, it lets me print the two forms shown in this post, which my deltabot printers’ software just can’t seem to handle. The CubeX software can handle the thin edges better and print pieces without supports, which means much far less clean up. It also lets me use a filler that PLA probably wouldn’t put up with.

Accordingly, I decided to create these two forms for an upcoming show. I knew they wouldn’t print perfectly, though, so some body work was in my future ….

As-yet-untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronBecause most of my work is created in metal, I’m really familiar with ways to “cheat” to make something look good. A lot of times I can just weld and fill, but of course, that won’t work with 3D- printing filament. So I turn to a trusty standby that I’ve used with metal when welding isn’t possible, say, in a tight spot or after a finish has already been applied.

Enter J-B Weld. If you don’t know about this miracle substance, you should. J-B Weld can be used to fix, well, almost anything, and it is really, really strong.

I figured out that it could be used for 3D printed sculptures when I made my first 3D-printed never-ending form, Oculum. It easily smoothed this beautiful sculpture’s surface. Of course, I had to put a finish over the top, but that was OK. I ended up using an antique brass patina on Oculum, and then painted another similar sculpture called Night Sky. The J-B Weld did its job to normalize the surface beautifully in that case, too.

Now I’m using it with these two, thus far untitled sculptures. I apply the J-B Weld, sand it, prime it with primer filler, then wet sand it. It takes many applications, but it’s definitely worth it to get the look I want.

 

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