Inspired by large 20 plus foot rhythmic metal wind sculptures, I've been trying to design and build a small, somewhat similar kind of kinetic wind sculpture using traditional construction methods such as metal and polymer clay. The designs have failed because it is difficult to visualize the kind of balanced, rotating, yet rhythmic design I want to create, and the construction of such a sculpture by traditional methods is not trivial.
Therefore, I recently I began to explore the use of 3D software to develop the sculptures I envision. This has proven very successful as a design tool because animating the sculpture allows me to see exactly how the sculpture will look when it is rotating. A 3D model also has the added benefit of being 3D printer build ready.
So, with the advent of powerful open source software such as Blender 3D, and affordable 3D desktop printers, a new generation of kinetic wind sculptures can be realized.
This sculpture requires a computer, 3D software and a 3D printer. The design is not limited to a specific size, which depends on the printer and/or the segmentation of the final sculpture. For this instructable I will show the design and pre-flight build process for a small kinetic wind sculpture, discuss adjustments to the design and then show an example of how to scale it up in size.
Here is an animation of the model I will be reviewing.
Step 1: Load and Learn a 3D Software Package
I decided to use Blender 3D because it is free open source software, has hundreds of online video tutorials, has a virtual physics lab for wind testing and it can export objects in the file formats used by 3D printers. However, there are a variety of other very capable software packages that can be used for this project so explore the package of your choice.
I spent many hours running through the online tutorials until I felt comfortable with the UI and many of the features. Because the design is somewhat organic in style, I paid particular attention to the bezier curve in relation to lofting and lathing. These techniques are used for most of the design elements.