Introduction: 3D Printed Flower Sculpture "Allium"
This is an experimental sculpture project that I started after the purchase of a 3D printer, which I got to make stamps and other patterns for my ceramics.
I have been creating ceramics and sculptures for a long time and either firing in my kiln or making a mould and casting it.
My interest lies in the natural world and particularly shapes from seed pods and flowers. See my website for details of some of my work.
Alliums have large spherical flower heads on slender stems, I wanted to re-create this effect in a sculpture.
I particularly wanted to try and create the spherical effect of the flower head with multiple individual petals and also introduce some movement into the piece so that it would sway in the wind or when knocked.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
3D printer, I have Creality Ender 3
3D slicer, I used Ultimaker Cura
Drill and 40mm and 32mm Forstner drill bits
M4 tap to create threads
Reel of PLA, I used Sky Blue from Technology Outlet which I have found works really well and reliably sticks to my glass bed.
1mm and 3mm galvanised fencing wire, this can be obtained at most hardware stores
12mm MDF for the base
M4 bolt, nut and washers
Tin filled with sand/cement
Wood glue, paint and nails
Step 2: Design
I have been using Tinkercad to design most of my 3D printed objects as I have found this easy to use when starting out. However the central sphere has been designed using FreeCAD as this gave me more flexibility with positioning the holes for the wires and creating arrays.
The first element was to design a centre sphere to hold the individual wire supporting the petals, this needed to have holes for each wire and the main stem. I did not want to use supports while printing so the sphere has been created in two halves. They are almost identical except the bottom half has a 3mm hole in the bottom for the stem and the top half has a 1mm hole.
The holes for the supporting wires have been rotated around the sphere
The flower was created directly in Tinkercad using the defined sunflower shape with an added Paraboloid shape in the centre.
The Gimbal is based on the Faster spinning customisable gyro available on Thingiverse created by https://www.thingiverse.com/5hwb/about. I have filled the centre part and added a long lug with a 3mm hole from which the weight is suspended to keep the flower upright.
All the STL files to make this are attached.
Step 3: 3D Printing
Once the design of the 3D printed parts were finalised I exported them as STL files and opened these in Ultimaker Cura for slicing and printing.
All items have been printed using the standard setting with layer height of 0.2mm without any support, infill was set at 20% and a brim was added to help adhere it to the glass bed.
The flowers were printed in groups of 5 a total of 65 are required.
As the holes are quite small in the sphere and flowers I found they needed to be drilled out to enable the wire to be inserted. This could be done with a 1mm drill or I found that a short length of 1mm wire in the drill chuck worked well.
Step 4: Cutting the Wire
The 1mm wire for the flowers needs to be cut into lengths of 80mm this allows for inserting into the sphere and flowers and any final trimming (See construction section).
You will need 65 separate lengths.
The 3mm wire for the stem needs to be cut to 500mm long, this usually comes in a coil so it will need to be straightened. I cut a length longer than required and put one end in the vice and keep pulling while wearing a pair of gardening gloves putting pressure where I need it bent straighter.
Step 5: Constructing the Flower
A vice to hold the stem wire while attaching the wires and flowers will be useful at this stage.
Start by inserting the bottom half of the sphere onto the 3mm straight rod, the rod should protrude approximately 10mm through this half, the top of the sphere can be inserted onto the rod, the position of holes for the 1mm wires should be offset between the top and bottom halves (see photo). Test it first before gluing, once you are happy with the positions the two halves can be glued together with superglue.
Each of the 1mm wires can be inserted into the sphere, apply a small spot of superglue to the end of the wire and insert into the hole. Once all are inserted each one will need to be checked for length from the sphere surface to the end, a metal ruler is good for this, they can then all be trimmed to the same length with wire cutters, 65mm was the length I used.
Each flower head can now be attached to the end of the wires, apply a small drop of superglue the the hole in the flower and push onto the wire.
The wires and flowers can be adjusted to get an even distribution once complete.
Step 6: Making the Pedestal
The finished size of the box is 200 x 200 x 200mm.
It is made from 12mm MDF
You will need the following cut sizes:
1 piece 200 x 200mm for the top
4 pieces 188 x 188 for the sides.
Glue and pin each of the sides together as shown in the drawing, position the top piece on the assembled sides square the sides up to match the top and then glue and pin the top piece to the sides.
Once the glue is dry any minor gaps in the joints can be filled with wood filler and sanded.
With a 40mm diameter Forstner drill bit drill the centre of the top to a depth of approximately 8mm then with a 32mm diameter Forstner drill bit drill all the way through. This will create a stepped hole within which the gimbal can be inserted and still move freely.
Apply 1 coat of undercoat and one or two coats of gloss/satin paint in colour of choice.
Step 7: Making the Counter Balance
In order for the flower head to stay upright it will need a large weight suspended from the gimbal inside the plinth.
I used an old tin can with a M4 bolt through the centre of the end of the can and held in place with a nut and 2 washers.
To provide the appropriate weight the can will need to be filled with something heavy enough to provide the counter balance, you may need to experiment to get an appropriate weight. I needed 670 g.
I suggest using sand and cement in proportions of 3:1.
Don't forget that the length from the underside of the gimbal to the bottom of the tin needs to be no more than around 160mm to allow the suspended tin to swing inside the box.
Step 8: Final Assembly
The gimbal will need an M4 thread to be cut in the long lug so the bolt in the can can be screwed into it, use a M4 tap to do this.
The wire stem should be pushed into the top of the gimbal with a little super glue to hold in place.
Take the assembled flower with gimbal attached and push the gimbal into the hole in the plinth, carefully place everything on its side and screw the counter balance into the lug on the gimbal, once secure turn upright and you are finished.
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Any comments or questions gratefully received.
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