Since Thingiverse’s selection of 3D printed models is so vast, let me introduce you to a special section of the site. This section is devoted to 3D printed Interactive Art items. 3D printing technology is already so interactive, because its users can be involved in every aspect of the creation of a model, from initial conception, design, printing of prototypes, printing the final model, and post-production sanding, coating, finishing, painting or whatever else is required to get your idea where you want it.
Over at Thingiverse, we see items that, once printed, sit on shelves. And that is fine, because everything has its purpose. The Interactive Art items are models that have a dual function: they are artwork, and they also require something from the user to be fully displayed. Many of the items have gears and can be moved. A 3D printed Rubik’s-style cube would be another example of Interactive Art. The point is, these objects don’t just sit there once they are printed. To use them to their full capacity, you have to interact with them somehow. Above you can see an excellent example of Interactive Art. (This is Joe Ethington’s Amazing Gyroscopic Cube Gears.)
The latest addition to Thingiverse’s Interactive Art collection is the Pearl Slide by Don Boose, and once the slide is assembled, you certainly have to interact with it. Your job is to start a ball at the top of the slide and monitor its downward trajectory as it rolls all the way to the bottom. “Hey! That was cool, let’s do it again!” Boose reports that his goal when he designed the Pearl Slide was to “implement an interactive function to the 3D print.” And he did just this by creating a fun and interactive object that requires its users to be actively involved in its operation. He explains:
“The print was a dynamic slide that would transfer a small ball to one point to another. To achieve this I crafted the shapes of the model so that the ball would roll down each piece to the next piece until it reach the end.”
Once Boose designed the model in 3D software, he used Unity to create a digital simulation. If you don’t know what Unity is, and you are into game development, this is a platform that connects game developers to audiences who appreciate them. It also allows for creative testing, like digital simulations of 3D designs, and this is how Boose used the platform before he 3D printed his slide.
Once he knew that his slide would work, he 3D printed six separate pieces that were assembled and glued together to make the slide. Five wooden dowels are also necessary here to keep the slide up. Finally, three vinyl cuts were added to make the flag poles for decorative effect. And, of course, you need balls to roll down the slide. Different sized balls would be a good addition to teach children about the relationship between sizes and speeds of objects.
The 3D printed world of Interactive Art is especially interesting, since the object you design and print becomes a game, a tool, something you continue to actively use long after that printer bed gets cooled down. Let’s hear your thoughts on this design in the 3D Printed Pearl Slide forum thread on 3DPB.com.