Introduction: Hiking Trail Markers

About: I'm an actor/tech/IT/graphics/editor/writer kind of guy. I do a fair share of voice over work and have the full time gig at Bard College at Simon's Rock. While waiting for machines to do things, I hit the wo…

The campus was looking for new markers for out interpretive trail that runs through the woods to the lake. They knew I had a 3D printer and might want to get involved.

Boy did I!

I used:

Adobe Illustrator

Autodesk Fusion 360

Ultimaker Cura

Creality 3D printer

Some foam core

Hot glue

Brick in the Yard Plasticil Gel-25

Brick in the Yard EasyFlo 60

Brick in the Yard Pol-Ease 2500

Sulfur Free molding clay

Polypropylene graduated cup

Wooden stirring stick

Rustoleum Plastic coat 2x primer and finish coat.

Step 1: Step 1. Design

Since I had a "Client" I wanted to give them options. Not a lot, no need to overwhelm them. The campus mascot is a Llama, so I started with that. Then a traditional shield marker that harkens back to the National Forest style marker. And then the third was a combination of the campus logo, since we're an early college, they use the sapling, and we have an academy on campus as well, and they use the acorn.

They chose the shield marker. I liked it best as well.

These were designed in Adobe Illustrator using the school font of Helvetica Neue.

Once I was happy with the design, I exported a .svg file of the image

Step 2: Step 2. Model

I then took that .svg file into Autodesk Fusion 360. I have an educator license so I can start to figure out the program. I've been using Maya for years, but Fusion 360 is really setup for CAD work.

When the design is brought in to Fusion 360, I had the option to create a few interpretations of the idea. My first thought was to have the sapling be a cut out, so the tree would be seen through the marker.

I printed that, and realized the molding process would be iffy with that kind of cut-out.

I went back and made the sapling a relief. That simplified everything.

Using Fusion 360, I made the model 90mm wide, and was able to push and pull each element to vary the depth. From there I exported out a .stl file of the model.

Step 3: Step 3. Slicing and Printing

Taking the .stl file into Ultimaker Cura, I replicated three more to print out four in total.

I did a Super Quality slice with the PET-G. You could still see the 3D print lines, but I'm ok with that. Geek texture.

From there, it was over to the Creality 10S 3D printer, and I printed using PET-G filament. I am so far in love with printing with PET-G. It sticks to the bed very well, has a nice finish, and once the bed cools, it just pops off.

Step 4: Step 4. Mold Making

Taking all four 3D printed medalions, and using hot glue, gluing them down to the foam core.

From there I used modeling clay, sulfur free, (to avoid messing with the silicone) to smooth the transition from the 3D model to the foam core and prevent the silicon from seeping underneath when I pour the mold.

I used silicone with a 1:1 ratio of part A and part B. Prior to pouring, I sprayed the entire box and prints with mold release.

The sides of the box were created with foam core, glued with hot glue to create a water tight seal. Silicone will find a small hole and leak everywhere. Ask me how I know.

Mix it up, pour in the center, and let the silicone flow into all the details. I let it setup for about an hour. With the mold release, it pealed out perfectly.

Step 5: Step 5. Making Copies

A good negative mold.

Then through sheer luck, I mixed up just enough resin to fill the molds without any waste. The resin is also a 1:1 ratio.

Sweat shop Monk!

I started cranking out trail markers every 12 minutes. Four at a pop. I could make a second mold, but let's not get crazy here. I made about 50 initially.

At this point you may be asking why I didn't tint the resin. Mostly because the colors were up in the air. And paint color is more consistent.

Step 6: Step 6. Get the Students Involved.

Once I figured out the process, it was time to share it. Explaining the mold process, mixing up some resin, pouring it into molds. Watching it kick into a solid. Removing the piece from the mold and spray painting the results.

The team decided they wanted markers on each side of the tree, so we had to double our production. The original 50 became 100+.

And the colors changed for each trail. Tan for one trail, bright green for another. Maybe yellow for a third.

I'll keep all the molds, positives for a while, as I suspect they'll want more. And maybe some Alums of the school would want one as well. You never know.

I'm glad they asked me to help.

Step 7: Summary

Good durable and easy to make once the pattern was created. The markers are visible, yet subtle in the woods. The tan color stands off the grey tree trunk. There are posts in the fields that wear the green trail marker.

The project came out great.