Introduction: 3D Printed Mechanical Sculpture

This sculpture was inspired by a Radial Compressed Air Engine. I wanted to try to 3D print the whole sculpture in one piece.

Step 1: Sketching and Design

First I started sketching artistic versions of the 5 cylinder radial engines I saw online. I wanted the cylinders to be angled to give the sculpture more depth. I also wanted it to be very sculptural yet symmetrical to highlight the 3D printers functionality.

Step 2: 3D Modeling

Once I chose the design I liked best, I started 3d modeling it. I started with the main body and used the loft tool to create the two very organic shapes that make up the main body of the sculpture. I then modeled the axle. The axle needed bearings so I created cylindrical bearings that went through both the top and bottom parts of the main body. Next I modelled a piston and a piston arm. I wants the piston arm to be organic and not just a straight rod, but at the same time, it couldn’t run into the axle while moving.

Step 3: Assembly

I made a new assembly file so that I could include two extra piston and piston arms and move them around to make sure they moved the way I wanted them to. The pistons move in and out of the cylinder while the piston arms rotate around the axle.

Step 4: 3D Printing

Next I got the file ready to 3D print. I couldn't print the pistons inside of the cylinders because they would be stuck, so I positioned them outside of the cylinders for printing. Then, once it was all printed, I took it apart to clean all of the structural material out and put the pistons in the cylinders.

Step 5: Laser Cutting a Base

Now I had a mechanically functioning sculpture, but I still needed something to attach it to. I decided to laser cut a base with a propeller that would attach to the axle. The propeller has three tiny bumps in the center hole that hold onto the axle. Standoffs separate the two pieces of acrylic that sandwich the propeller. I did some test cuts of the acrylic holes to make sure they created a very snug fit with the standoffs and axel. Next I assembled the base with the 3D print to make sure everything moved together smoothly. Lastly, I took it apart and took the paper covering off of the acrylic and assembled it back together.

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