Archive for 3D printed sculpture

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 ….

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Getting it together: connecting 3D prints

Untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronEven though I have an 8-foot-tall 3D printer that will print up to 4 feet tall, there are times I’d like to make something bigger.

I have done that, as evidenced in the 5-1/2 foot tall sculpture Epic Swoon (below), which was commissioned by PriceCooperswaterhouse in Columbus, Ohio. That sculpture, the tallest 3D-printed piece I’ve made to date, reached its height by placing the main part of the sculpture on a black pedestal.

In all honesty, I have not had much luck yet in matching parts so that they can be put together seamlessly, so the contrasting pedestal was a handsome workaround.

Recently I created another sculpture (right) – well, at least the start of one – by printing 2 sections and sliding them together using slots. The fit is tight and requires no adhesive, but it wouldn’t hurt, either.

So it’s no surprise that Pinshape‘s recent post about using adhesives for 3D prints caught my eye ….

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Alien forces invade 3D print

As-yet-untitled 3D printed sculpture - Kevin CaronCrazy things happen with 3D printing, especially with my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.

As Steve Graber, who built this monster, has said, whatever this printer does, it does spectacularly. That definitely includes surprises like the “slubs” on my sculpture Love and Marriage, which are explainable, and recent moments like the time the print head decided to print a foot to the left of the print bed.

The most recent and as-yet-unexplainable oddity – or, as it’s called in the art world, “artifact” – is what it did to a print I just finished ….
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Seeing in 3D – Using 3D printing for prototyping

3D printed stem of Schubertii sculpture - Kevin CaronWhen 3D printing first became popular for more general use – it’d already been around 20 years in industrial and scientific settings – “rapid prototyping” was the buzzword you heard everywhere. (After I started working with 3D printing and especially my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer, I found this hilarious – there wasn’t much rapid about it.)

While I do create sculptures using 3D printing, I also use it for protyping. It’s really important when I’m creating a sculpture in CAD and then actually building it in metal to be able to see all aspects of the form.

A great example is a sculpture I’m just beginning, Schubertii. Based on the plant by the same name, this sculpture will be 12 feet tall. Seven feet of that will be the sculpture’s “stem.”

The stem is fairly simply to look at, but creating it in metal is going to be, well, challenging. Its round edges and flowing form will require me to use a combination of tools – air shaper, English wheel, maybe even the slapper (yeah, there really is a tool called a slapper) – to get the rounded form that is the opposite of how metal comes, in flat sheets.

To get the form right, I printed the stem maquette, or model, on my Cerberus 3D 250 desktop 3D printer ….

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Surprises selling 3D-printed sculpture

Three of my large format 3D-printed sculptures at Vision Gallery - Kevin CaronI got great news this week when a check arrived from one of my retailers, Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona.

Vision has been carrying my work for a while, and for the past many months they have displayed the largest collection of my 3D-printed sculpture outside of a special show I did this past February. With glass walls on three exposures, the gallery is the perfect place for 3D-printed sculpture, especially light-hungry translucent pieces.

I wasn’t surprised that the sculpture they sold this month was Lemon Drop (shown on next page), a particularly luscious piece printed in translucent yellow PLA filament. Of all the translucents I’ve used thus far, the yellow is by far the most beautiful. It seems to capture and reflect the light.

The blue translucent is downright cold, although still beautiful, while the red tends to glow. The purple is more subtle, as evidenced in Josephine, a sculpture I recently completed that is on display at Vision Gallery. I love the emails I get from the gallery manager, who keeps snapping and sending photos of the sculptures as the light moves across the sky. She’ll write such reports as “Miss Josephine looks particularly sultry today.” That’s music to my ears: it means the art is as alive for her as it is for me.

What has surprised me, though, is who is buying my 3D-printed sculptures ….

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Stick this! Adhering a 3D print is key during printing

3d printing-lifted corner - Kevin CaronOne of the challenges of 3D printing that I think – knock on wood – I’ve finally worked through is adherence to the print tray.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a 3D print come loose from the tray while a print is underway, and it’s something that’s happened to me far more times than I even like to think about.

The Cerberus 3D Gigante’s large format prints are particularly prone to this problem – I have a few large prints the corners of which have “flipped up” slightly because they cooled faster than the rest of the print. See an example to the right – fortunately in this case, it works with the concept and theme of the sculpture!

Sometimes, though, a lifted corner ruins the print altogether.

Other times, on any of my printers, a 3D print simply comes loose from the print tray – then it’s game over.

But I’ve learned a few things and updated some to improve my quality and finish rate ….

 

My 3D Systems CubeX came with some sticky stuff that I used on that 3D printer until I got my Cerberus 3D machines, when I learned about using hairspray. Yes, hairspray. (I’m sure they wonder at the grocery store when I buy three or four cans of Suave Extreme Hold hairspray. I just smile.)

Suave Extra Hold Hair Spray - 3D printingI still use hairspray – more on that in a moment – but I’ve gotten away from using blue tape. That was the other trick I learned when I got my Gigante. I’d apply painters’ blue tape – the kind that is supposed to release easily – to the print tray, pressing down just as hard as I could. It worked sometimes, but not always. Also, not all blue tape is created equally, apparently.

I don’t like the blue tape because

  1. It is hard to get off the tray
  2. It’s especially difficult to get off the sculptures
  3. It doesn’t always seem to work.

What seems to work best is a heated tray. That’s why I added one to my CubeX and another to the Gigante. 3D prints adhere much better with heat! I don’t think I’ve had a problem with large format prints lifting up since I installed the heated tray on the Gigante.

Of course, you don’t just use heat. Before I start a 3D print, I also clean the print tray well, then spray it liberally with hairspray before I start printing.

Of all the challenges with 3D printing, I think – THINK – I have this one licked.

What do you do with a failed 3D print?

endtable-croppedAnyone who works with 3D printing – other than on the very high end – has likely pondered what to do with prints that don’t make it.

Early on, I asked it a lot. Between hardware, software and filament problems, I had a lot of fails.

Often a fail is unsalvageable. I mean, really, what can anyone do with a rat’s nest of filament?! (Maybe find a homeless rat?)

My hope is that the Protocycler will finally be completed. I invested in this Indiegogo-fueled project that grinds up old filament so it can be reconstituted to fresh filament, but at this point it seems like it’s still a pipe dream. (And I’m now really reluctant to invest in any crowdsourced project without a lot of scrutiny!)

But some failed projects got far enough that a little imagination might lead to something worthwhile. Take for instance, the print that failed after more than two days of printing (right) because of a power outage ….

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Double trouble: Is it original or a print?

Multiples of Sunscraper, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin Caron Most people who have wondered if 3D printed sculptures are art have now realized that 3D printers themselves are simply tools, like paintbrushes, potters’ wheels and cameras.

With 3D printing, however, some people continue to fear that once artists create their original CAD designs, they will then simply print popular sculptures over and over, creating the sort of “copies” 2D artists make with offset prints and giclees. Many in the art world are bothered when artists offer inexpensive (or sometimes not so inexpensive) copies of their work this way.

For me, although it is, of course, technically possible to print multiples, whether to do so is really a philosophical issue. I had to consciously consider and develop this philosophy as a lodestar for my 3D-printed creations.

Sure, once a design has proven popular, I could simply reprint multiples, but that isn’t something I choose to do any more than I do it when I create sculptures in metal. In metal, it is a little trickier to recreate a form exactly, which would be quite easy with 3D printing. Still, I think there are issues for patrons if they feel they are not really buying an original.

My philosophy is straightforward, but took a little time to think through ….

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3D printed art still opening eyes

With the International Sculpture Conference in town at the beginning of November, I made it a The crowd at the opening for Ten: Modern Abstract at monOrchid Shade Gallery, Phoenix, Arizonapoint to have as much work visible as possible. Sure, many of the attendees were not necessarily art buyers, but they are art lovers. Too, artists usually appreciate outliers like me, people who don’t play by the rules.

Creating sculpture with 3D printing isn’t that unusual – there are plenty of artists out there doing it – a Google search for 3D printed sculpture brought back 1,440,000 results (admittedly, this isn’t a scientific study, but still!).

That being said, very few artists are printing their own work, much less doing so with a printer that can create sculptures as tall as 4-1/2 feet.

So when I got the chance to have some of my large format 3D-printed sculptures at one of the most popular galleries in downtown Phoenix, I jumped on it ….

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