3D Printed Head Planters




Introduction: 3D Printed Head Planters

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Some say that it's hard to find beauty and brains, but what if you could have beauty where the brains should be? If you've ever wanted to give your loved ones beautiful plastic busts of themselves, you're in luck! For this Instructable, I will show you how you can use 3d scanning to create personalized yet slightly creepy planters of you and your friends' heads! So clear some space by a window or find an empty corner on your desk because 3D printed planter YOU is coming home!

To give credit where credit is due, I was largely inspired by Thingiverse user Yay's Yoda Vase. I printed this file as a Secret Santa gift for a co-worker which planted the idea for this project in my head(pun intended).

Step 1: Things You Will Need

Before you begin, make sure that you have access to the following things:


Xbox Kinect Sensor

Power Supply Cable

3D printer (I used the MakerBot Replicator 2)



Rhino or equivalent 3D modeling program (this Instructable will cover editing using Rhino)

Step 2: Download Skanect

Skanect is a fantistic, user-friendly program designed to use with the XBOX Kinect sensor along with several other devices for 3D scanning. Skanect can be downloaded on both Mac and PC platforms with Free and Pro versions. Unless you are made of money, I recommend downloading the free version. The Free version is fine for what we need to do.

To begin your download, you can visit the Skanect download page by clicking here. As pictured in the image above, you can download Skanect on Windows 32 Bits, Windows 64 Bits and Mac OS X. If your operating system isn't up to date, there is even a link at the bottom of the page to download previous versions of the software.

If you are downloading Skanect onto a Mac, no additional setup is required after your download is complete. If you are downloading Skanect onto a PC, there are a few drivers you will need to install. Links to where you can download the most current versions of these drivers can be found on Skanect's download page.

Step 3: Getting Ready to 3D Scan

Before you start scanning, you will have to plug everything in! Connect the power supply chord to your Kinect, and plug the USB into your computer. Also make sure that your power supply chord is plugged into the wall.

Now, open up Skanect. If everything is hooked up correctly, there should be a green icon in the top right corner of your Skanect window that says 'Freenect Sensor'. If you hooked something up the wrong way, in place of the green icon you will see a yellow icon and a message that reads 'Structure Sensor Waiting for Uplink...'.

Once you have everything hooked up correctly, there are a few options on the front page that you should pay attention to. As shown in the picture on the top of this step, the following options should be selected:

Bounding box1 x 1 x 1 meters
Aspect ratioNormal
Pathleave as is
Config FileNone

Once you have made sure that all of these options are selected, you can press 'Start'.

Step 4: Scan Your Subject

When scanning your subject, it is important that you have a good light source. If you lack access to fancy spotlights like I did, try to find a spot near an open window with good lighting. Once you are ready, have the person you are scanning stand still and face the Kinect sensor. Leave at least 3 feet in between yourself and the person that you are scanning. Hold the Kinect sensor up so that your subject is situated fairly centered from about mid stomach up in the cube on your screen. Make sure that no major objects are also appearing inside of the cube on your screen. If there are objects that appear outside the cube, you should be fine.

Once you have your subject situated how you would like, press the record button(red square with a circle in the center) on the top left hand corner of your screen. By default, Skanect will count down from 3, and then your recording will begin. You will notice that your subject will now appear larger on the screen and be covered in green and red. The Kinect sensor has a built in infrared depth sensor, and the green and red shown on your screen is indicating the depth information currently being collected.

Now that you are recording, instruct your subject to slowly rotate a full 360 degrees. Make sure you are watching your computer screen while your subject is rotating so you can make sure that the depth is actually being recorded. If more red and less green starts to appear, tell your subject to slow down. In some cases if the subject is rotating too quickly, the Kinect sensor will loose its place and tell you to go back to a previous position. These positions can be very difficult to match up again and it is often easier to stop the recording and start the scan from the beginning.

Once your subject has turned a full 360 degrees, slowly move the Kinect sensor towards them and capture underneath the chin and on top of the head. Those spots are very easy to miss. If you are short like me and have trouble scanning tops of heads, don't worry. We will later trim that part off of our 3D model.

Once you are done scanning, press the record button again to end the scan. Give your computer a minute or so to do its thing, and you should have a 3D model!

Step 5: Process Your 3D Model

To get your 3d model ready to export, you will need to do some editing while still in the Skanect program. In order to do this, you will have to click on the Process tab found at the top of your window.

The model that you currently have on your screen has a few problems that we need to fix. You will probably notice that when you 3D scanned your subject, bits of objects might have gotten picked up and captured on your screen. We need to get rid of those extra parts. To do this you will need to go to the following location in the left side menu:

Geometry > Remove Parts

Select Remove Parts and by default, the program will give you the option to remove parts smaller than 99% of the biggest part. Leave this option at 99% and select Run. This command should remove all parts except for the 3d model of your subject.

Next, you will need to make your 3D model a solid. The 3D scan only captures the outside surface, and often leaves small holes where the scan wasn’t able to pick up information along with a large hole at the bottom. To fill the holes and make your model a solid object, go to the following location in the left side menu:

Geometry > Fill Holes

Before you execute this command, you should have the following options selected:

SmoothingI selected Medium, but you can play around with this option if you would like
LimitNo extrapolation limit.

Once you have the correct items selected, you can click on the Run button. This will make your model a solid.

***Just for fun*** Along with capturing your subject in 3D, the Kinect will also record color information. To view your 3D model in full color, go to the following location in the left side menu:

Color > Colorize

Under the Colorize window, you will want to have the following options selected:

InpaintColors On

Select Run and your model will now be in full color! Keep in mind that if you are using the free version of Skanect, you will not be able to export any color information.

Step 6: Export Skanect Model

Next you will need to export your model from Skanect. To do this, click on the Share tab at the top of the Skanect window. In the side menu on the left hand side of the screen, go to the following location:

Local > Export Model

Within the Export Model window, select the following options:

# FacesFree version limited to 5000 faces

Select Export Preview (no PRO license) and save your .OBJ file in your preferred location.

Step 7: Getting Started With Rhino

To turn the .OBJ file that we exported from Skanect into a planter, you will need to edit it using Rhino. If you don't already have a version of Rhino on your computer, you can download a version by visiting this webpage. As a PC user, you can download a 90 day free version of Rhino. If you happen to have a Mac, Rhino you can download a free version of Rhino that is still under development. Although this version of Rhino is still under development, it has most of the features that the version released for PC has.

Once Rhino is downloaded, open it up and an initial window should appear allowing you to select from several templates. Select Small Objects - Inches if inches was the scale you were working with in Skanect.

Once you have opened up this template, you will need to import the file you were working with before. Use the command 'Import' and select the .OBJ file that you exported from Skanect.

Before you do any editing, make sure that your model is situated square to the x and y axis'. I had my model rotated so that when looking at it from the top viewport, my shoulders were laying parallel to the y axis.

Step 8: Creating a Flat Base

Creating a flat base for our 3d model is really quite simple. To begin, look at your model in the front viewport and using the 'line' command, draw a line where you would like to slice your model to create a base. Once this line has been drawn use the 'MeshTrim' command. When prompted to select a cutting object, select your line and when prompted to select an object to trim, select the part of your 3d model beneath the line that you would like to remove.

Now that we have trimmed our model, we will need to make it solid once again. To do this, select your 3d model and use the 'DupBorder' command. This will create a line around the hollow base of your model. We will need to create a plane from this line which we can do by selecting the line and then performing the 'MeshPolyline' command.

Lastly, we will need to join our two meshes together by selecting them both and using the 'Join' command.

Step 9: Removing the Top of the Head

To remove the top of the head, look at your model in the left or right viewport. Using the 'Curve' command, draw a line where you would like the opening to be at the top of the head. For my planters, I began by tracing the hairline from the top of the forehead until I got about half way across the head. Then I finished the curve by continuing the line straight across the back of the head.

Once you have drawn a line you are happy with, use the 'MeshTrim' command and select your line as the cutting object and select the area on your 3d model above that line as the object to trim.

At this point if your model is not scaled to the actual dimensions that you would like to print, scale it NOW using the 'Scale' command. This is very important because the next two steps are dependent on your model being scaled to the correct size.

Step 10: Offsetting Your Mesh

' In its current state, the mesh we have now is only a surface and we need to turn it into a solid. To do this, use the 'OffsetMesh' command. When this command is executed, a small window will pop up asking you for some information. What we really need to pay attention to is the Offset Distance. Make this value however thick you would like your planter to be, but my suggestion is to go thinner rather than thicker. For mine, I used an Offset Distance of 0.1 and it worked fantastically. In addition to choosing an Offset Distance, make sure that you have a check mark in the Solidify box. Once you have done these two things, press the Offset button.

In some instances, you will notice that the bottom of your surface will offset outwards while everything else will offset inwards. Luckily, fixing this problem is fairly simple. To begin, use the command 'Undo' so you are left with just a surface once again. Than, use the command, select your model and use the command 'Explode' to separate the bottom surface from the rest of the model. Next, select the bottom surface and use the command 'Flip'. When this command is executed, the mesh faces will flip directions. Select your two surfaces and use the command 'Join' to create one surface once again. Now you should be able to preform the 'OffsetMesh' command and all of your surfaces should offset inwards.

More often than not, you will find some messy areas after offsetting your surface where mesh faces are poking out of places that you don't want them. To delete these faces, select your model and perform the 'Explode' command. This will separate your model into a few different surfaces. Now, use the 'MeshTrim' command using the surface that the unwanted mesh faces are intersecting as your cutting object and an unwanted mesh face as the object to trim. You will most likely have to repeat this command multiple times due to the fact that the unwanted mesh faces will probably be located on multiple surfaces. Once you have removed these mesh faces, select all of your surfaces and use the 'Join' command to combine them once again.

Step 11: Adding Holes for Drainage

The last thing that we need to do to our model is adding holes for drainage. Start by viewing your model in the top viewport. Next, use the 'Circle' command and when prompted, type in the length of the diameter for your circle. I made my diameters 0.1" each. Next, copy and paste these circles several times and place them where you would like the holes to go. To make cutting out the holes simpler, move the circles so that when extruded, they would come out of the hole at the top and would not intersect any of the walls of the model.

Next, select all of your circles and use the 'ExtrudeCrv' command and make sure that the box that says Both Sides is selected. Drag your curser to extrude your circle, making sure that your extrusion is intersecting the bottom of the planter.

To use your extrusion to cut holes out of the bottom, use the 'MeshBooleanDifference' command. When prompted to select the "first set of meshes, surfaces or polysurfaces", select the model of your planter. When prompted to select the "second set of meshes, surfaces or polysurfaces", select your extrusion. When this command is executed, holes will be cut in the bottom of your model.

Finally, with your model selected, use the 'Export' command and export your model as a .STL.

Step 12: Print Your Model

Using your .STL file, print your 3d model with raft and supports. To remove the support material, I like to use Flush Cutters. The support material on the outside of the model is fairly easy to remove, but the inside support material is not. I ended up leaving the vast majority of it inside of the planter which in my opinion is perfectly fine. Once a plant is added to the planter, the inside support material will not be visible anyways!

Step 13: Adding a Plant

Find yourself some fun, colorful plants to put inside of your head planter! Before potting the plant, add some small rocks to the bottom of the planter to improve drainage.

Step 14: Hang Out With Yourself...Err...I Mean Your Planter!

In all seriousness, these planters are a blast to hang out with! There is nothing like waking up in the morning and seeing a miniature bust of yourself with flowers growing out of its head. They are silly, adorable, and will put a smile on the face of anyone that you make one for!

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