Erik Es of Amsterdam is really onto something. In a world that’s growing ever more full of knickknacks and tchotchkes thanks to a multitude of different manufacturing processes and crafts—as well as 3D printing–the operator of Printed in Space has come up with a new method that yields some very classy looking designs for the home.
“Over the last two months I have developed an interesting new 3D printing technique for FDM/FFF printers,” Es told 3DPrint.com. “I call it ‘Es-Cage printing‘.”
And as happens so often with creative types, Es stumbled upon this new process while trying to perfect another one in the form of…wait for it…basket weaving. Yes, basket weaving combined with 3D printing—but that’s another conversation. While embroiled in that endeavor, he also ended up creating a new and unusual way of fabricating cage designs—and Es-Cage printing was born. Es realized that the standard FDM 3D printer can jump over empty spaces ‘much like a spider.’ This process is called bridging, and the designer points out that it works really well for small distances up to one inch—perfect for his cage prints.
Models, like that of the basic cylinder, are composed of numerous stages, bearing indentations, and each one containing and inner and outer shell which is connected by radials—part of the construction which must match up exactly, as they, according to Es, form the beams, which in a design like a basket are used to bind the stages together.
“The trick of Es-Cage printing is that each stage is modeled so that the next stage will have exactly the same radials, but “switched” inner and outer shells,” explains Es. “Basically, the printer is printing ‘zig-zags’ all the time, alternating between zig-zagging and zag-zigging to form the stages.”
Radials can also offer ‘body,’ and result in something like a wicker pattern. See more regarding that topic in his section for baskets.
“The prints come out clean, and print time is relatively low compared to normal printing,” says Es. “The amount of radials can of course vary, as can the height of the stages and the thickness of the resulting ‘wall.’
While this may all sound pretty complex, if you try to make your own (see the tutorials), you will find that indeed the structures can be printed in one piece and quite speedily, with no fill or supports. Es’ instructions are very clear, step-by-step, and offer a wonderful amount of visuals to help you along.
Although offering a rather delicate appearance, the lightweight cage designs are as strong as they are lovely–and require only one continuous print. Es states that even with his tiny prints, they are so strong he can stand on them without seeing them break or even bend.
In experimenting, he began to work on and perfect 3D printing squares, spheres, cylinders, and even shapes that are combined, which in the end allowed him to perfect a desk organizer. While he was able to merge items like the cube and the cylinder fairly easily, he was challenged in combining the cube and sphere shapes, in terms of how they intersected.
“Once a model is finished, it is quite easy to deform it,” says Es. “In the pictures you can see the first example of applying a ‘twist’ operation to the model.”
Even more complex shapes resulted in lamp shades, as the designer cut out separate tops for each one, shaping them to match each pattern. He then printed them using a spiralized technique—and if you want to figure out how to do that yourself too, you will have to wait for Es’ next tutorial—soon to be released.
For the other designs though, he has released two tutorials which offers the basics on how to make your own 3D printed Es-Cages. He explains how to print in the two main ‘flavors,’ regular and Only Follow Mesh Surface (with no bottom option).
In the tutorials, you learn how to:
- Create a cylinder using the OFMS setting in Cura – this is the easiest method and allows the center of the nozzle to exactly follow the surface of the model. There are limitations for this process however, because you can’t have a bottom/top, skirt/brim, and there are no retractions.
- Create a cylinder using the regular setting – while this is slightly more difficult, your model can be printed with a bottom—but it must be at 100% scale.
The instructions are extremely thorough, and you should have a lot of fun creating your own cages, with numerous other tutorials on the way, promises Es.
“I have found that this technique opens up a whole new world of possibilities, of which I feel I have only scratched the surface…” Es told 3DPrint.com. “I’m sure there must be many other useful, fun applications for this technique besides the ones I have found so far.”
If you are a fan of Es-Cage printing, be sure to check out some of Erik Es’ other creations, from desk organizers to jewelry, in his webshop. What do you think of these new designs? Tell us in the 3D Printed Es-Cage forum over at 3DPB.com.