Putting an Artistic Finish on 3D Prints

Courtney Link (Instagram: @clanks) works in Production & Finishing at Objex Unlimited, where she puts the final touches on client projects.

Link’s Introduction to 3D Printing

Courtney Link was introduced to 3D printing just one year ago, but thanks to a background in art and great mentorship, her prints could fool you into thinking she’s been 3D printing for decades.

“I was introduced to 3D printing when I accepted a position at Objex Unlimited about a year ago,” Link says. “Before that, I was doing artifact reproduction at Parks Canada, using traditional molding and casting. So, I have that mixed media art background, but 3D printing is a more recent addition to my repertoire. Now, I get to use 3D scanning, modeling, and 3D printing at work, and I’ve learned so much in the time I’ve been here.”

Link isn’t just proficient with the 3D printing process; she’s shown incredible talent in post-production on 3D prints. “Anything that’s printed comes to me, and I do the finishing touches: sanding, painting, whatever it takes to make the project perfect for the client. ”

Enticing Ease of Use

Although Objex Unlimited has a variety of 3D printer brands available, Link admits that she uses the Afinia a lot for her personal projects. “It’s so easy to use! Everything is straight-forward… I don’t have to spend a lot of time getting things going, or changing the filament,” she exclaims.

Link also mentions that she is a big fan of the new Afinia Studio software, pointing to the ease-of-use. “Especially coming from a non-3D printing background, the software makes it really easy to understand everything and get everything ready for printing in little time.”

The First Big Project

Barnacle printing on Afinia H800
One of Link’s barnacle files is printed on the Afinia H800.

Her first big project using the Afinia was 3D scanning and printing a set of barnacles she had purchased from a fish store. “I showed some coworkers the barnacles, and everyone thought I wouldn’t be able to print it. They thought it would be too fragile… but I printed them on the Afinia H800+ and they turned out great!”

Link explains that the barnacle project “kind of just happened,” as she’s always had an interest in fossils and similar artifacts through her work with museums. “When my partner, who at the time worked for an ethical saltwater aquarium distributer, brought home a bunch of shells and dead coral I was immediately inspired. My first words to him were ‘I want to scan and print that!’” says Link. “I borrowed a larger barnacle to scan. It was extremely delicate, and with the help of my coworkers, I completed my first scan.”

Link's finished barnacle
Link’s finished barnacle print from the H800.

After scanning the barnacle, one of the digital artists helped Link prep the file for printing. “I did decide to thicken parts of the object to ensure it would have enough material not to break instantly, especially since I wanted the sum of the prints to become functional pieces of art,” adds Link.

“I tried printing the barnacles on one of our other printers first, a very large FDM printer. The results were okay, but I wasn’t overly happy with them,” admits Link. “When the Afinia came in I decided to give it a go. Eighteen hours later, my first print looked awesome! The print lines were barely visible, which was something I was worried about, and it had a lot of strength which was perfect.”

Inspired by Nature

barnacle and wire project“I have always had a connection with nature and strive to live environmentally conscious life,” Link explains. “More recently, I have had a growing interest in marine life and its conservation; I think that’s also the reason I was drawn to the barnacles.”

Link expands on her pieces, combining 3D prints with other materials to create new and intriguing pieces. “One of my pieces has a printed set of barnacles affixed to a piece of concrete I collected from a construction site. I then wrapped wire around it, as if it is choking the life out of the barnacle. We tend to be very wasteful as a society, dumping waste into our waters, and engaging in destructive fishing practices… that is what this one piece is about. It is meant to shed light on the negative practices we are engaged in, and have been engaged in for decades,” stresses Link. “ I hope to one day exhibit this piece, along with others part of this series.”

Line Up for the Afinia

Perhaps from proving itself with the barnacles (or the overall quality it’s produced time and time again), the Afinia H800+ 3D printer is becoming a popular tool choice at Objex Unlimited.

“I am actually waiting in line to use the Afinia right now. Everyone loves it here! One of my coworkers, Kate Haines, is currently making cookie cutters with it. She has also printed a working ukulele.”

Bone for scanning
One of the original bones Link scanned for her project.

When Link does have access to the Afinia H800, she’s continuing a project she’s been working on that involves sculptures of different bones. “Bones are really trendy right now! I scan the bones, print them in funky colors, or print them in a regular color and paint them myself. I love using the printer for art pieces… but I also like to make the art functional, too, or try to repurpose materials in my work… like attaching it to old barn boards, or old rocks. The bone sculptures are neat because they are functional incense holders.”

The Afinia H800 actually opened the door for Link to do the project, which she explains she has wanted to do for quite some time. “I have been collecting different bones for years. Originally, I was going to use the bones themselves for sculptures, which I still will, however right now, I am scanning all of them first before assembling. This way, through 3d printing, I can easily make many of the same sculpture, or change certain aspects of it to make something functional or more abstract.”

Combining Passions

It’s Link’s educational background that gives her an interest in bones. “I have my BA in Anthropology. At one time, I was very convinced I wanted to become an archaeologist, but my passion for art kind of took over and I followed a different path,” says Link.

Luckily, she’s been able to combine many of her passions. “Right now, I am actually working with our scanning specialist, Julia Hulme, and a paleontologist to reconstruct dinosaur skeletons, so bones and fossils are always kind of on my radar and act as an inspiration for my own art.”

Versatility for Finished Looks

With such a focus on art, it’s not surprising that one of Link’s favorite things about 3D printing is the versatility. “I love to experiment with all the different materials, and the different ways you can finish them,” shares Link.

H800 printing knobs
Link captures the H800 printing knobs.

She explains how it plays into one of her current projects: a jewelry holder. “I’ve been printing off different knobs and handles, which I paint to resemble different metals. I make them look sort of old and vintage, and then attach them to boards to hold jewelry,” she says.

“I find that lately, with ‘vintage’ being so trendy, knobs carried in stores are expensive. Plus, they’re not always exactly what you’re looking for… so I just use knob files, print them, and paint them however I want. It allows for more flexibility, and eventually I can offer more options!”

You can see Link’s work by following her on Instagram.
Objex Unlimited is an authorized reseller of the Afinia H800+.