The term “3D” gets spoken of a lot lately, especially “3D printing.” Though the term seems commonplace, sometimes we forget why 3D things are so cool and interesting. By turning something from flat 2D (two-dimensions) into a fully functioning 3D experience, we are not only engaging more senses (tactile touch) we are creating objects that have presence from 360 degrees of viewing.
In order to expand this conceptual understanding of 3D printing, we challenge you to flip the term and consider what it truly means to “print in 3D.” Printing in 3D can be done with or without technology, as many mixed media artists will attest to the fact the amplifying their use of tactile textures is a favorite way to add the third dimension to their artworks.
To do this, we begin with hot glue…one of our favorite tools! Not only can hot glue be used to attach objects together or fix broken things, it is an amazing starting point for understanding 3D printing. After all a 3D printer is essentially a hot glue gun on wheels that is controlled by a computer.
Printing in 3D with Hot Glue Molds
Using a flexible silicone mold (i.e. Small ice cube trays and/or chocolate candy molds bought at grocery store for about $2 each, various shapes: hearts, stars, shells, mustaches, leaves, etc.) you can fill in with hot glue and small craft findings (sequins, glitter, etc.) to create your own 3D objects. Experiment with adding small amounts of paint or food coloring to change the color and texture of the hot glue. These objects can be displayed on shelves or turned into pendants and key chains by attaching yarn or cords. See more details in this tutorial (coming soon).
Drawing in 3D with Hot Glue
Using parchment paper (baking paper bought for a couple of dollars at grocery store) you can create 3D doodles and unique 3D objects. Experiment with drawing directly onto the parchment paper and see what happens when hot glue is added. Does the drawing transfer? Experiment with adding craft findings to the hot glue as you draw. Does the hot glue drawing have the strength to stand up on its own as a sculptural object? What can you do with these 3D hot glue creations? Use the dried creation as a printmaking stamp (cover with paint and press down on thick paper to make a print) or embossing tool (place paper over the creation and rub with crayon to create colorful textures). Attach yarn or string and turn it into a sun catcher for your window or wear it as a necklace, ring, or bracelet. See more details in this tutorial (coming soon).
Computer Modeling in 3D with Free Software
Using Autodesk 123D Design (free download for Mac, iPad, and Windows) or TinkerCAD (free web-based app used directly in Internet browser) you can create your own unique 3D models. The completed 3D models can be exported as “.STL” files and sent to a 3D printer and printed into a physical object. Don’t have a 3D printer of your own? Upload your file to www.shapeways.com and have them print it for you (costs vary based on the size of your model, which material you want it printed in, and how soon you want them to mail it to your home). Don’t want to wait for snail mail…search for a 3D printing service near your home on www.3Dhubs.com (enter in your zip code and a list of local 3D printing services are provided, rates vary). View our resources page for more related information.
Want more 3D activities? Check out our project page for more ideas.