Materials, composition, and things that go wrong

This week was the dreaded “Amazon is late, 3D printer is busted, I don’t know how to CNC and it’s 3AM" already” week, but I pushed through and made progress on two techniques I intend to combine for the final art toy pieces I’m making.

Digital Kintsugi

The concept for the toys I’m designing is “ownership and emotional connection through repair”. The digitally designed figures are (digitally) broken and the owners must put them back together, making them both unique and more beautiful. This approach is very much inspired by the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi - carefully repairing broken homeware with gold paint, making them more beautiful than the original.

I designed a very basic shape in Houdini and broke it, then separated each piece and 3d printed all of them. Despite setting the print for quick-n-dirty settings, the edges came out quite smooth.

I then moved on to the repair step and wanted to find a way to prototype the Kintsugi look without having to use real good paint. I mixed plastic glue with gold Mica powder and after the powder dissolved the glue looked shiny and consistent. I then followed the model in reverse and glues all the pieces back together.

I was more concerned about testing whether the 3d printed parts will come together well rather than doing a clean job so I ended up getting gold glue all over the place (including my new black pants) but it worked out (!) and I made my first digital Kintsugi piece. While there’s a lot of room for finessing and refinement, I’m super excited about this new combination of traditional craft and digital fabrication, and the concept of manually repairing broken digital items.

Layered Acrylic and working with additive-subtraction(?)

Inspired by the beautiful wooden pieces we saw made of layered skateboards, I was inspired to try out techniques for adding color to material before the subtraction process, and not just as a finishing or painting step. I wanted to layer acrylic of different colors and mill the character parts out of the colorfully grading blocks.

To begin with, I cut 1/16” sheets of acrylic to 4x4” squares in black and white, then applied acrylic adhesive to each layer and quickly glued black and white layers in sequence. I made a total of 3 blocks, 2 tall and one short and clamped them to dry over night. The next morning, I released the blocks and all the knocking sounds and looseness in the material disappeared - it felt like a solid chunk of acrylic.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my Other Mill bits in time so I couldn’t proceed with the milling, but I learned some cool modeling techniques in Fusion 360, and how to use the CAM module that comes with it. More on this front next week!

Side quest - Other Mill fans

Finally, in preparation for milling the acrylic, I stumbled upon a blog post on Bantam Tools’ website, showing how to make small 3d printed fans that can be mounted on the router bits of an Other Mill, these fans can clear out milled material and make for a cleaner process and smoother finished product. I made a few right away and stashed them until I actually know how to use the Other Mill.