AMS Spring 2023

Artist Offers a Clever 3D Printed Sign to Designate Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

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Bathrooms have been a controversial topic lately, especially in the United States. There’s a sharp and often angry divide between those who believe that a person should be able to use whichever public restroom corresponds to their gender identity, and those who believe that people should have to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender they were born with. Then there are those who think the whole debate is rather silly – a bathroom is a bathroom, after all.

Artist and maker Robb Godshaw falls into both the first and the third category, which frequently overlap. Godshaw, a former artist in residence at Autodesk Pier 9, believes that gendered bathrooms, overall, are outdated, and the signs used to designate which is the men’s room and which is the women’s room are especially absurd. He’s certainly not the first person to express such a view, and others have used art to make the same point before. (I always liked the meme that shows the person-in-a-dress silhouette of a traditional women’s room sign, and then reveals in a second image that it’s actually a silhouette of a person wearing a cape.) Women can wear pants, and men can wear dresses, he argues, and when did we decide that where we eliminate waste should be so dependent on gender anyway?

To poke fun at traditional bathroom designations, and also provide a clever sign for establishments that want to offer gender-neutral restrooms, Godshaw designed and 3D printed a mechanical sign that switches from a person in a dress to a person in pants every 15 seconds.

“This is a political project,” says Godshaw. “If you don’t think politics have a place in making, you are mistaken.”

The sign has a crank mechanism and gears attached to the left and right arms. As the crank spins, it pulls the arms apart, splitting the traditional “male” sign down the front of its shirt or jacket and taking on the appearance of a dress. It’s a neat way to say “We don’t care who you are or what you’re wearing, come on in.”

“This is a tricky thing to design,” Godshaw comments. “It is essentially 50% mechanical engineering and 50% graphic design. Not so many tools are good at both things.”

He started the project four years ago – rather ahead of his time, as the whole public bathroom debate really got going much more recently. He went through four different design programs, including Adobe Illustrator, Rhino, Autodesk Inventor and finally Autodesk Fusion, finally settling on Fusion as the program that worked best for the design. The CAD file is posted online, and Godshaw invites people to use or modify it – “for any non-evil purpose,” he clarifies. You can also find the design on Thingiverse.

He used a low-rpm AC microwave oven turntable motor to mechanize the sign, but he’s hoping to make a solar-powered version eventually. 3D printing the sign took about eight hours, without a raft, brim or supports. Godshaw cautions that layer-to-layer adhesion needs to be especially strong as the arms rotate on fragile pins; small screws with nylon lock-nuts may be necessary if you run into problems.

After 3D printing is complete, you’ll need to add the crank pins and snap the arms into place, followed by the crank wheel and the electrical assembly. Godshaw provides detailed instructions in his Instructable. It’s not a simple project, and maybe not one for beginners, but it looks like a fun one, and the end result makes an important statement while making the viewer smile at the same time. What do you think about Godshaw’s project? Let us know in the 3D Printed Bathroom Sign forum thread at 3DPB.com.

 

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