In this tutorial, we will learn how to cast a Tardigrade out of silicone. The modeling skill is 'comfortable'- you don't have to be very experienced, but you probably want to feel fairly comfortable within the modeling environment.
My kids love Tardigrades, I love Tardigrades... Really, I think it would be hard to find a person that doesn't love the immortal little water bears! Recently, I was telling my two boys about Tardigrades, and they were fascinated! I thought what better way to fuel that curiosity than casting some soft and stretchy water bears for us to play with.
Leave a comment and feel free to ask questions!
Step 1: Things You Will Need
Below is a list of all the items I used to make this Tardigrade.
- EcoFlex 00-30 Silicone
- Silicone Pigment - you can use food coloring with mixed results
- Mold Release Spray - One can last a long time and I highly recommend trying it. Pretty much guarantees that the mold will release without problem
- Oral syringe - I used 5ml, they also last a long time
- Mixing cups and sticks for Mixing
- Adjustable Clamps
//I want to take a moment to thank you for exploring the fun world of creating with me. I've always loved inventing cool things and solving problems. It is a true joy to be able to share something I feel so passionately about with so many people! You Rock! If you may have noticed I have placed hyperlinks throughout this page. When clicked they will take you to points of interest that I thought worth mentioning. Some of the links are to products that I use and purchase for my projects and if you click them, I may even earn a small commission. Thank you and enjoy :)
Step 2: Using T-Splines to Model the Tardigrade
We will start with placing a picture as a reference photo, I found one that was pretty close to head on after a quick search.
There is a thing called a Space Mouse...It is amazing, I absolutely love using one. If you are building this Tardigrade, you have most likely heard about a space mouse or thought about getting one. If that thought has occurred in your mind, Buy it! <- I bought this kit and love every part of it. I actually store them in the cases when not in use because I have such high respect for how amazing they are.
- place a cylinder about where the mouth is.
- Now, select "Close hole"
- We will now move around the faces until we form the basic shape of its mouth
Step 3: Adding Some More Details to the Face
- Lets make some small adjustments until it starts to feel like a Tardigrade
- After the face looks good, start to build out the rest of its head
Step 4: Building the Body
- Place a new cylinder near the head
- Add segments so we can have more detail
- Use the tool "Bridge Gap" to join the body and the head
Step 5: Shaping the Body
Since Tardigrades have 8 legs, we will need to make 8 places for legs to attach :)
- Go around the body and try to make humps where legs should go
- Put the canvas on/off to see how it is coming out
Step 6: Baby Got Back
I had trouble finding a nice view of water bear bottom. So... I decided to make 'em THICK. Lets close up the back end in style and get these legs attached!
- Make each leg connect a little differently
Step 7: Cute Little Hands :)
Tardigrades have gnarly claws, but I don't think it will be easy tp print them. For now, lets just make some cut like hands and call it a day.
- When it looks good and you feel done, render the model to make sure everything is in order and see how cool it looks
Step 8: Modeling the Mold Part-1
- There are a few ways to do this part, I created a sketch on the ground plane. Than, I extruded it by 0.001mm. for me this is a fast way to get the same result.
- Now create a sphere in one of the corners like in the picture.
- Copy the sphere around until you have one on each corner
- Use tool 'Combine' to join the 4 spheres to the bottom mold.
Step 9: Modeling the Mold-Part2
- Select the bottom mold you just combined, move/copy it 50mm to the side
- Use combine, set the top piece as the target, and the bottom piece as the tool, Press 'OK'
- Make a little channel in the top so we can inject silicone
Step 10: Post Printing Prep
By painting think coats of paint in the mold, we can help to hide some of the layer lines left over from printing.
- Spray Primer on the mold, 2-3 coats
- Use a brush to apply thick coats over print defects
- Give it a gloss coat when you're done, this will help make sure the silicon comes out easily
Cordless Dremel comes in handy. I put off getting one for a long time because I have a nice corded Dremel. That was a mistake, now that I have the Cordless Micro I use it all the time
Step 11: Final Preperations for Making the Mold
By right clicking on the body tab (left side) in Fusion 360 we can see an option call 'properties'. In here we can see that this tardigrade is about 25cc. That is how much Silicon we will need to cast this due.
- Make a little extra - in my case 5cc extra = 30cc
- Use a graduated cylinder to measure half the total amount and make it on a cup.
- Add pigment to one cup, but keep the other clear. This will help us know that we mixed it good
- Take note of the time, different silicones have different 'pot life' (the amount of time that it is liquid)
Step 12: Using the Mold to Cast the Tarfigrade
Using an Oral Syringe, we can inject precise amounts of silicone into the mold
- You should coat the mold with a Mold Release Spray, I do this with any mold to make sure the final product comes out easily
- Because of air bubbles added when mixing, you will often have to fill inject the last bit over a period of time. But, since we know it needs 25ml to be full, it is easy to keep track of. If we don't have 25ml in the mold, it is not completely full of silicone.
- You do not need a ton of force, a pretty solid squirt without straining should be fine.
Step 13: Opening the Mold
After a set amount of time, the silicone will be fully cured and ready to remove. The EcoFlex 00-30 I used, is 4-5 hours. Silicone is pretty tough stuff. You have to take some care not rip it, but you have a pretty wide birth. Don't be afraid to be a little assertive when removing your Tardigrade.