One 3D designer and printer took the idiom “home is where the heart is” literally when he created a unique Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend earlier this month. With his photo blog on Imgur, maker “drnoog9” shared details about how he created an intricate, 3D printed pendant based on a topographical map of his and his girlfriend’s hometown.

The thoughtful Valentine’s Day gift is actually two interlocking pendants. The two halves meet and interlock along the route that either one takes to the other’s house.

mapStarting with Google Maps, this creative, 3D Casanova found a topographical map of the town where he and his girlfriend live, zooming in on the area that is intersected by the route between their homes. He provided screen shots as he worked in SolidWorks and explained how the process became unexpectedly complicated:

“I realized that I couldn’t accurately trace the contour lines in the original topo map so I had to change my plans… I used SketchUp and its ability to generate surfaces from Google Maps data to create pictures of evenly spaced contour lines. I then imported those pictures into SolidWorks and scaled them using the previous topo map.”

topographyNot easily daunted, drnoog9 persevered, making artistic choices like cutting out the river that runs through the area and allowing it to be a deep fissure on the surface of the 3D modeled map he created. The road linking him to his girlfriend comprises the highest point on the topographical map; he split it down the middle to create the break between the pendants and then designed loops for the chains from which the separate pendants would be suspended and completed the design in SolidWorks.

After arriving at a final 3D model with which he was satisfied, drnoog9 used Shapeways, the online 3D printing service, to print the pendants in bronze. Shapeways uses a five-step process to create objects from bronze. With the first step, the 3D model “is printed in wax using a specialized high-resolution 3D printer.” Following the wax 3D printing, the wax model is placed in a container and then “liquid plaster is poured in around it.”

When the plaster hardens, the entire piece goes into a furnace and the wax is melted and then released from the plaster mold. Next, molten bronze is poured into the mold; the bronze hardens very quickly and then the plaster shell is removed.

finished pendantShapeways offers its customers two different options: raw bronze and polished bronze. The raw bronze is tumbled briefly to smooth out the surface slightly. The polished bronze gets more attention as it is cleaned carefully and then polished by hand. Shapeways notes that the polishing process can potentially blur fine details and wear down edges, so the polished bronze may not be the ideal choice for a highly detailed 3D model.

When the finished pieces arrived, drnoog9, this detail-oriented 3D designer with a big heart created a professional looking display box in which to present this arguably wonderfully poetic gift to his beloved. What do you think of this gift? Discuss in the 3D Printed Pendant forum over at 3DPB.com.

display pendants

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