3D Printing: Not Exact Science

I’m glad people enjoyed my El Tiburon digital sculpture that I shared in the last blog! I posted the image to several Steampunk groups and a Western group on Facebook and received lots of likes and some nice comments.

Yesterday, I did my best to 3D print it on my Cube 3 printer. I had the software itself generate the supports. In 3D extrusion printing, the print nozzles lay down one thin layer of plastic at a time, and each layer builds on the last. Thanks to gravity, everything has to be supported, especially objects that have nothing underneath them, hence the removable supports.

Everything went great until it got to his hands, which mysteriously had no supports, so they came out as ugly strings of plastic.

For reference, here’s the character sheet of the digital model, from Zbrush.

Here’s how the print turned out, with most of the supports removed. (Note that I printed the figure in blue, and the supports in neon green, so it would be easier to see what needed to be removed.)

Aside from the missing hands, it was coming out well. Even the sarape was thick enough to print nicely.
I’m not sure that my printer will be able to do this model, but I’m working on it.
Autodesk MeshMixer is free software that can fix minor problems in 3D print files, and adds outstanding supports. MeshMixer supports don’t rise straight up from the print base, but branch out from parts of the model to support other parts. In fact, they look like branches. Here’s what the digital model looks like with MeshMixer supports.
The branches are a bit tricky to snap off, but in my experience they can come off without damaging the model.
Now, the trick is going to be to get all the software cooperating. So far, the Cubify software has rejected two versions of this file. I’m hopeful though that I can get it to work, and if I do, I’ll have an El Tiburon sculpture to share in the next few days.