Decorations and 3D Printing Thoughts Part 1

I get the impression that things are much less decorated than they used to be. This has been explained to me as because of the increased cost of labor, which has some issues but to me wins out over other explanations. Some other explanations I’ve heard are that people are overstimulated in life and don’t buy decorative stuff so they have a place to recover, that plainness and lack of decoration is the new class signalling, and that a different civilization is responsible for all the nice stuff we see historically but don’t see built any more. These may later explanations may be more correct but they are unverifyable, while the first points to a specific effect that is definitely true. An issue with the first explanation is that the ultimate cost of e.g. nice decals, impressions onto stamped metal, has also been made lower due to technology, but maybe less so than the thing itself. Regardless, I appreciate nice looking things and soulful things and want to live in a world with more of them.

Costs can be split into manufacturing costs and design costs. Something neat to me about additive manufacturing is that for a lot of methods, decorations are free, or atleast very low cost. The decorations can also be different for each object produced. For example, Desktop Metal has a binderjet printer that prints wood (sawdust+binder) and dyes the material to resemble different types of wood (Forust). Because it’s a binderjet printer, small model changes for e.g. fake engravings don’t affect print time or cost, and because the material is already volumetrially dyed having custom colorations and patterns and images should also come free. This is the best example, but all binderjet printers and resin LCD printers should have basically free 3D decorations, and many 3D printer methods that allow color have the same print time cost regardless of the color used. Of course, all these methods rely on 3D printing actually being a competitive way to design a mass produced product, but in my impression that’s already what a lot of 3D printing companies are betting on anyway. There are also many cases where literally the same object is sold from different places with several fold differences in cost so I think it’s very possible that most people would be willing to pay a small premium for custom items.

This leaves design costs. While I think there’s some human intervention required, there’s a lot of neat generative deep learning work that could be used to take the load off of human artists. For example, given a model of an object to print, a human probably needs to label visible surfaces vs. critical surfaces (surfaces which must remain unchanged for function). At the lowest end of engineering difficulty, aesthetic patterns or simple random textures/tilings can be applied. There are manufacturing methods which produce results like this already, where every customer gets a slightly different object in a nice way. At higher levels of engineering difficulty, generative deep learning models could produce stylized and themed decorations according to the desires of the consumer. I’m still thinking this side of everything through, so I’m collecting examples of technologies and art. While I have some experience making and training generator deep learning models, it’s not something where I’ve ever been happy with the result.

Silicone Stamps

I was a bit interested in making a personal stamp (like for sealing letters), so I threw together a design in Blender, printed it, and cast it in silicone. Just a note, I was incredibly impressed with Blender’s sculpt mode-it felt like I was playing with actual clay, and no matter what I did the result was always a manifold mesh. I have plenty of experience where programs can’t even maintain manifoldness after boolean operations on relatively simple shapes.

For the stamp itself, I think I used smooth-on’s ecoflex gel (don’t remember now). Silicones are nice because they are generally non-stick, so no extra mold-release is needed. When cast, they often can transfer details finer than the eye can see and this level of detail is used for some types of lithography.

As 405 nm floodlamps and SLA resin were more common where I did this than waxes, I used resin first. I was pretty happy with the results.

I also tried beeswax (not show), shellac and polycaprolactone, but wasn’t as happy with either of those.

Traditionally, sealing was was made from shellac and beeswax with pigments. Modern sealing wax is literally hot glue. As I didn’t get anything melted to work well I wonder if it was because this used of a silicone stamp instead of a metal one.

I was thinking this would be neat to turn into a small self-contained device, with stamp material (resin or wax), stamp and activator (405nm light or heater). Maybe wedding planners would be interested in it.

Fauna and Flora and Fungi