AMS Spring 2023

Elegant 3D Printed B3RD Flaps as Playful Mechanical Art

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Designer Mike Le Page, PhD loves birds, and it shows in his 3D printed creations, which have continued to evolve over time. In 2016, he first introduced his 3D printed Dove, a sculpture with flapping wings that he was inspired to create as a response to the wars happening around the world. He followed that up with Mockingjay, a Hunger Games-inspired print that was even more intricate and articulated than the original. Now Le Page is introducing another 3D printed bird, the B3RD, which Le Page describes as similar to a fidget spinner for kids, while being a showcase of the capabilities of 3D printing for adults.

“I’m excited because I think I’ve finally come up with a design that is both simpler and more robust, yet still achieves what I was originally aiming for: a piece of mechanical art that you can articulate in your hands to imitate the flapping motion of a bird,” Le Page tells 3DPrint.com.

The B3RD is a small, delicate creature that flaps its wings when manipulated. It 3D prints in one piece, fully assembled except for a pair of orthodontic elastic bands that attach between the wings.

“On a technical level, I also wanted to show the type of object you can create simply with SLS 3D printing that is near-impossible to achieve with conventional methods,” Le Page continues. “I didn’t want to use 3D printing as the prototyping method in this case: I wanted the print to *be* the final product so people could actually touch it, something with multiple, organically-shaped, interlocking parts that come out of the machine in a single print job.”

The B3RD is also far less expensive than its predecessors, at only $30 on Shapeways. With its curving lines, it’s a beautiful piece of art, in addition to being fun to play with – for both kids and adults. It’s more than just a sculpture that sits on a shelf or a desk; it’s interactive and a demonstration of the complex structures that 3D printing can create.

Le Page has been busy in addition to creating 3D printed bird art; last year he founded a company called Exodus Space Systems, which grew out of a group that won the 2016 NASA spaceAPPS challenge and is currently prototyping a solution for the space debris problem – a “space centrifuge” concept, often seen in sci-fi, Le Page says.

“In order to do that, we’re currently patenting a new ‘space origami’ design which helps solve the issue of how you pack a large diameter, donut-shaped torus into a long, narrow, rocket payload bay. Unfortunately because we’re in the process of writing the patent I can’t talk about specifics, but I do want to point out the link with the B3RD,” he tells us. “In this case, I am using 3D-printing as a prototyping platform, but *because* of the experience I’ve gained with the B3RD (and all my other previous models), I’ve been able to iterate on our ‘space origami’ concept in the same way I have with the B3RD. They are both 3D printed, multi-part, single-print models with complex geometries. And having those physical models definitely helped us to reach our first seed funding agreement with investors just last weekend!”

Those who buy a B3RD are helping to support the startup – a good reason to do so if you needed one. Personally, I think the cool design and fidget spinner-like entertainment possibilities are reason enough.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Daniche Creative]

 

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