3D printing is a serious gift for the technologically savvy artist. Allowing not only a new tool into the creative arsenal, this substantial technology offers a fresh avenue for conceptualizing, digitalizing, and even manufacturing–allowing the artist to couple entrepreneurial spirit with talent and technology–often cutting out the middleman and heading to the marketplace on their own time. And while the ability to produce work independently is a major breakthrough, the real joy is in finding a vast new world of innovation, with seemingly infinite applications.
With the ease that digital design offers before heading to hardware and physical construction, artists are able to work much more rapidly in developing concepts, scrapping ideas that don’t work, as well as rapidly refining ones that need a few online changes and can then be sent back to the 3D printer on the whim of the designer.
An artist and student at the University of Melbourne, Joshua Stellini was recently exploring and experiencing all of these benefits, which allowed him not only to design and 3D print a table, but also add innovation to the piece of furniture by way of installing and adorning it with a cushiony 3D printed surface that also allows the table to function as a comfortable place to sit.
NinjaFlex was Stellini’s choice for 3D printing material. A specially formulated thermoplastic, NinjaFlex is meant to offer unique strength, flexibility, and versatility in 3D printing. Manufactured by Fenner Drives, the relatively new material is not meant for all builds, but specifically those that do require a more flexible filament. Available in an array of colors, its benefits are a low melting point, as well as little probability of cracking in 3D models. Not offering the rigidity that other filaments do, it definitely has its own niche–and that was one Stellini decided to check out further after purchasing some of the material.
A complete newcomer to 3D printing, as well as NinjaFlex, Stellini experimented with some other small designs before embarking on designing and building out his table.
“Having never used or even seen a 3D printer before, additive manufacturing was very foreign to me. To begin with I went onto Thingiverse in order to download some pre-made designs that were ready to print,” states Stellini in his informative project journal. “The models I downloaded were quite messy and unsuitable for the UP plus 2 so I decided to make my own. This decision allowed me to learn about best practices when setting up a file and see the consequences of my decisions from beginning to end.”
With the goal of creating a complex, 3D printed surface, Stellini wanted something new and different for his project, spotlighting both his talent in architecture and furniture design. After working on several different ideas, he decided to attempt making a textured, spongy material that was both lightweight and elastic.
“The first test to illustrate this new concept involved a series of lasercut pieces stitched on top of one another with a piece of sponge sandwiched between each of the nodes,” states Stellini.
He then began searching for a way to translate this to 3D printing. A great deal of experimentation ensued in regard to printing temperatures and settings for use with NinjaFlex. Through trial and error, Stellini discovered how to make the filament work best for him, and found that there were many benefits to be had in terms of printing raftless, its texture, and lack of adhesion issues which allowed him quite often to print at room temperature.
“The parts produced with the Ninjaflex are primarily flexible and not stretchy,” said Stellini. “They bend very easily and return to their original shape but cannot be pulled apart in tension unless they are really thin. This is true up until a certain point because at threadlike consistency the filament is able to be stretched and even deformed elastically. The resulting parts are very, very strong.”
“The material is highly tear resistant and even fine strands require considerable force in order to break. The parts can be cleaned by burning or using scissors and a sharp knife.”
Ascertaining that the filament was a great choice for his project, Stellini continued with the flexible cube texture, designing what turned into quite an epic piece, featuring 167 modules which he printed on the university’s UP Plus 2 3D printers. He printed for seven days, logging in around 200 hours of 3D printing, and at some points had five 3D printers going at once.
Continuing to expand his knowledge regarding 3D printing and the use of a unique filament, as well as dealing with specific equipment idiosyncrasies in terms of the UP 3D printers on hand, Stellini fleshed out his project journal with a number of technical experiences, detailing some minor inconveniences and failures along the way as he learned about the material and desired settings, but achieved ultimate–and quite impressive–success.
In completing the table, he also had to construct 192 wooden blocks.
“A key component of the design is in the timber blocks,” said Stellini. “The cube was designed so that the variation in heights is achieved through the 3D printed joints allowing for standardized components, making labor much simpler.”
“By this stage all the 3D printed parts had been printed and cleaned and were ready for installation. This was done by simply feeding the dowel through the MDF, Ninjaflex, and finally capping with the timber block. The random staggered look was achieved by manually laying out the blocks on the floor and was not necessarily influenced by a parametric model,” said Stellini.
Completing the last hurdle, Stellini was able to put the finishing touches on his elaborate table, which is certainly a classic demonstration of industrial artistry using multiple media and techniques. Stellini’s project will be on exhibit August 10th – 28th in the Andrew King Lee Fun Gallery at the University of Melbourne MSD building.
While Stellini’s project may be one that belongs in an art museum due to its detailed craftsmanship, the implications that 3D printing offers in areas such as furniture design are vast as digital design and the technology become more mainstream. Thinking toward the future, just imagine the implications for the average person to delve into complex interior decorating, remodeling, and working on such projects as customizing their own bed frames, dining tables, and much more on the household goods front.
Have you created any 3D printed furniture, and have you had any experience with using NinjaFlex? Discuss in the 3D Printed Table forum thread over at 3DPB.com.
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