3D Printing for Out of This World Designs, and Daily Fixes

Stuart Ferguson is the Head of Technology at The Foundry, a global developer of software for use in the design, visualization, and entertainment industries. Ferguson has been creating 3D graphics for 30 years, and recently began 3D printing with the Afinia H479 3D Printer.

A 3D Printing Pioneer

“I’ve been creating 3D graphics since shortly after the first Star Wars movie, but when I became interested in 3D printing I had no idea what to do. After reading MAKE Magazine’s 3D printer reviews, it was clear that Afinia was high quality, and would be easy to use, even for someone who isn’t overly technical. I’ve been very happy with it.”

Ferguson’s prop designed to look like River Song’s blaster, from Dr. Who.

“When I first got the Afinia 3D Printer, I wasn’t sure what I was going to make. The possibilities are endless. The first thing of significance that I made was a pistol prop for my daughter’s River Song costume. The experience was very smooth. The fact that you can design something, print it, piece it together, test it, and easily print a second version is wonderful.”

“It is a great way to work on something physical. I’ve always had a lot of difficulty with making parts that are exactly what I need. For example, if I need to make something out of metal, by cutting or milling, it’s hard to plan how to make the piece. With 3D printing, there are a few concerns about how much support it needs, or how it connects to the platform, but those are minor issues. I just come up with the shape I want, and print it.”

“At work, I’ve become the 3D printing pioneer. Since I had experience with 3D printing from my Afinia at home I was familiar with the process, and just adopted the role. I use MODO for designing 3D objects. It is a digital content creation and design program that I helped to create for the company where I work. MODO makes 3D modeling and rendering very easy.”

Daily Fixes and Designs

Ferguson's replacement knob next to an original.
Ferguson’s replacement knob next to an original.

“The Afinia 3D printer is great for inventing things that I need around the house. I’ve made a phone mount for our treadmill, a large funnel for transferring paint, and I am hoping to build a smart phone mount for use near the hot tub. That one is still on my to-do list! It’s so easy to design something, take measurements, and create it, and these novel items are very useful. My 17-year-old daughter has gotten in on the action and printed out an ‘ear bud saver’ that she wraps her headphones around to keep them from tangling.”

“Another thing I love about the Afinia 3D Printer is that it’s easy to make replacement parts for items that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, a knob broke on my mom’s kitchen stove, so I measured the remaining knob and made a replacement. It’s exact – it turned out perfectly.”

Designs that are Out of This World

“Some of my favorite things to design aren’t necessarily household inventions or replacements. I also enjoy making my own toys and props, based on science fiction shows and comics. I’ve made the Star Fury and Earth Force PPG from Babylon 5. The Star Fury was the most time-consuming, since it was a really complicated model. I had to merge shapes together in way I hadn’t before. Long ago I bought a resin kit for the spaceship, but the parts were warped and didn’t fit together, and it was very disappointing. The fact that I could now make my own with my 3D printer, at the scale I wanted… I’m really happy with that. I was also impressed with how the Earth Force PPG turned out. It was challenging to create because it has an organic hand grip, which is a tricky shape to make, but it turned out great.”

The Machito
The Machito

“I recently participated in a contest held by Drive . Fans were encouraged to create – whether by drawing, building, modeling, etc. – any ship from the comic. I can’t even draw a straight line, but I know 3D, so I tried to figure out the shape of the Machito ship from his sketches. He ended up really liking the print, and I won the contest. Now I’m working on the Discovery from 2001, which is covered with all kinds of pipes and panels. I’m using some of the same techniques that I used on the Machito.”

Cheers to 3D Printing

Archimedes, Ferguson's drink-mixing robot.
Archimedes, Ferguson’s drink-mixing robot

“A number of years ago, I built a cocktail robot and entered it in the RoboGames competition. I wasn’t skilled enough to make a fighting robot, so I built an ‘art-bot’ that mixes drinks out of laser-cut acrylic. For my second I wanted to get away from the typical ‘drink-making robot’, which is a machine that just pours a drink into a glass. So I created “Archimedes.” Archimedes mixes drinks, but doesn’t have any motors or electronics. It just uses simple principles of fluid and displacement. The main body is made of PVC pipe, soda bottles, and some acrylic, but the parts that make it all work are 3D printed on the Afinia.”

“One of the first parts I printed for Archimedes was the fixture that screws on to the soda bottle. I modeled the threads and shape of it, and I was incredibly happy when I pulled out the support and it screwed on and fit perfectly! Not all the pieces were so easy, though. I have a big bin of the discarded parts that required more iterations. It is a great example of how you can design something, print it out, try it, and tweak it.”

“Archimedes is for art robotics demonstrations only. It requires lots of calibration, so it isn’t something I use at home.”

Simple Support

“I’ve used the Afinia customer support once for a problem with the platform not moving along the y-axis. They were incredibly helpful and knew what the issue was, and easily instructed me how to reset it. It was nice that I was able to talk to someone over the phone. I’ve been very happy with my Afinia experience, in all aspects.”