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3D to 2D: Using a 3D Printer to Draw in 2D

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caricature

His neck isn’t actually that long.

Over the summer, my fiancé and I joined my family on vacation and spent a beautiful day on Mackinac Island, Michigan. While we were there, we had a caricature drawn to commemorate our visit. A crowd gathered as the artist worked away, and over the course of that half-hour we quickly became accustomed to passers-by looking at us, down at the easel, and then back to us, grinning or laughing or reassuring us that we’d love the finished product. While we did enjoy the drawing (it’s now framed in my office), watching the crowd watch the artist create it was easily one of the best parts of the process.

Watching production dates back as far as art does; I can just picture cave parties waaaay back in the day, and how all the cavemen would comment on how realistic the animals were, and how fetching the fertility goddess looked in a given rendition. And today, just do a quick search: YouTube is full of videos of people creating art. Sure, some of the viewers are art students who want to learn techniques, but the majority of views will come from people just watching.

2D pen mount

Kraft’s custom-made pen mount

In 2014, art takes all forms. We’ve seen some really great pieces of art recently made using 3D printers. But what about using 3D printers to create 2D art? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as some clever 3D printer users keep discovering every day!

With a custom-made mount, a 3D printer can hold a pen; with custom settings on the printer, the pen attached to the printer can create… well, anything in 2D!

LulzBot user “bam” was inspired by a 2D printer marker mount and has developed and shared instructions for how to use a 3D printer for 2D printing; his mount is designed with a ballpoint Bic pen in mind, but is likely compatible with most other pens with similar shapes and sizes. With the right print settings, the pen will be held above the paper in such a way as to not over-saturate the paper. bam recommends using a high contrast jpeg image, a total print height set to 0.05 millimeters, first layer set to 0.01, and size set to work with your printer.

2D tree

Caleb Kraft, of Make: Magazine, noted that this particular use of a 3D printer is “slightly silly,” though also that “watching something being printed in the style of a plotter has its charm.” He’s right: it’s very silly. But he’s also right: the process is charming, and it’s just fun to watch!

Check out the video below to watch the process.

Some seriously neat designs can be made, too, though. As someone with approximately zero talent for drawing, I know I’d appreciate the chance to have pen “drawings” that I “made” (even if making in this process is computer aided, I think it still counts). The process is also reassuring: with the computer stepping in, no artist needs to worry about a stray sneeze derailing a line, or wondering just how to tackle intricate designs.

And the designs can be very intricate.

Trees, portraits, you name it: a 3D printer can be rigged to draw these up just for you!  Have you tried doing this on your printer?  Let’s see your work.  Discuss in the 3D to 2D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

2D portrait

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