Adventures in Digital Fabrication


The Concept

The question that first came to me was what is impossible? Almost anything we want is available in some form int he marketplace, so I looked at what is impossible from the perspective of a maker, can I make these objects with what I know, the answer was yes and no, I could possibly carve them from wood but the scale that they are it would be a very big challenge and would need a lot of practice to come up with a decent looking replica of what I had in mind. The impossibility in my case was the scale and precision of the physical objects which 3D printing could provide.

The Final Result:

So what did I have in mind?

I wanted to make one of my sketches into a miniature set, to have it come off the paper and be realized as miniature set in the real world, it was a fantasy world that came from one the games I love as a teenager, ‘The Secret of Monkey Island 2 – Le Chunk revenge’ In that there is a scene which blew my mind visually and the mood the music created was a perfect blend of a fantasy adventure game.

[Art copyright Lucas Arts Interactive]172173

The Inspiration:

I had done a sketch which was inspired by the images above, it was so dark and yet so playful and inviting. I wanted to create the same feeling with my 3D set based on the drawing below.


[Copyright Frank Ferrao]

This art was the inspiration for the rest of the project. We discussed in class how 3D objects were being used in stop motion to create character faces and sets. This was the spark that I needed to build my own mini version of this set.

The process:

For the modelling of the elements, I decided to use fusion, coming from sketchy fusion seemed very restrictive and had a bit of a learning curve.


3D Modeling:

  • There are different modes in Fusion, object creation state and then a kind of a layout mode where you move things into place and figure out the engineering part of the puzzle.
  • I switched back and forth between learning Fusion and going back to sketch because it was very frustrating when things would not work and almost get gridlocked.
  • As for the organic shape of the money, I used the default iconic blender Monkey, I was not able to print this as there were no 3D printers free after I got my initial prints.

One of the main challenges with the 3D software is the learning curve on each software, the tools and shortcuts are totally different and that can be frustrating if you cannot achieve your desired model, especially when it has a stylized shape beyond primitives.

3D Printing:

I used LulzBot [] for the 3d printing software.

The process was straight forward to set up the file I imported the STL files and exported a Code file once I did my setup.

The first time I did the print the plastic did not stick and the print went bad after 10mins of setup and printing, I immediately stopped the print and re-did my settings file. I remember Erica saying if your print fails to stick set it up with a raft and that is what I did.

I also lower my print quality to normal instead of high as I did not need fine detail on y models, this significantly helped my build time. I think this is a critical token in mind for the set building as objects which will be painted might not need fine detail as that will be lost anyway.

Supports is also critical in building character and thinking through the models as they might need to stand or bend their arms etc, these have to be given critical consideration.

Printing with the Raft setup:


The raft worked very well and I was able to get all the parts printed, I did get a few gaps in the places where the edges were bevelled but I sanded those later.

The other challenging aspect was taking the small print off the print bed, as the knife in the labs think and the parts could snap because they were small.


Intended Result vs. Actual Result:

The project I conceived needed more parts to be complete so for the final image I improvised with some other objects, like toys and props to complete my scene. I would have liked to have all my props printed but the time allocated with the 3D printers was not enough to get it fabricated. I wanted to take it a step further and sand and paint my 3D prints as that would allow me to understand how they sand down and the finishing of the object was important to my end goal. I used enamel part to prime and then pain the objects. Some of the paint did not adhere to the 3D print as the primer had not fully dried, but I was able to pat it down and get the look I needed, I would have liked more colour but I was limited to the colours I had.

Tools, Materials:


For the 3D print, I used the white PLA, 2.85mm gauge, I tried a test print of another very small object with the black plastic too, but I would not be able to paint the black plastic.

There was a putty knife in the lab to take the object off the bed.

After the print was done I used a rotary sander as sanding by hand a very small object was very difficult I could not get enough force on it to actually sand it down. also, the things like the spoon proved to be a challenge to get rounded off. Then I spray painted them with enamel primer.

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Painting each part with enamel paint and tweezers to hold the objects without smudging the paints.

The Iterative Design Process:


The design started off like I explained earlier with the sketch I did, in it were 8 objects:

  • Plank of wood
  • Dreamcatcher of sorts
  • Spoon
  • Tumbler
  • Lemon
  • Incense sticks
  • A Chilly
  • A Fork of sorts
  • Skull and Dagger

I wanted to get all these items printed and fabricated, the challenge was my 3D skills were not unto par with what was needed so I spent a lot of time jumping between software trying to figure out the best approach to get the objects done.

In conclusion, I would stick to blender and Autodesk fusion as I have now found those two to be most useful, I know SketchUp too but it is very hard to get anything organic built in the tool.

Another thing I would always do is build a skirt or raft to get my print done, as a raft really helps with smaller objects and keeping them in place.

Post-production Process:


Depending on your project this can be very critical in the final result, in set design and miniatures, I find the consumer printing 3D printers do not give you fine enough detail. Using paint and polymer glues to fill in gaps is a critical skill to have under your belt to get a good finish to your final fabrication. Pro-bond wood filler is recommended by Uncle Jessie on youtube. (Jessy, U. (2017, April 02)).


I looked for research on the making of Coraline which is the first film to push the boundaries of 3D printing to produce stop motion animations, all the animation heads and objects were 3D printed, they pushed the boundary further with Kubo. (2016, August 22) as that used an advanced 3D printer which printed with Stratasys 3d printers, Polyjet printing (Shapeways Inc. (n.d.)) was the technology used to get the fine details not possible before this time.

I also wanted to use natural lighting for the final scene, this was bit of a concern in a closed light box made of plastic, I finally cut down a candle and placed in the shell of an acorn and lit it to take the pictures needed to render the scene.

This video allowed me to understand the role of 3D fabrication in stop motion:

I would have liked to use different coloured maters if possible but there was not the opportunity to experiment with the printers, I did get to load a spool of plastic which was a very useful learning experience.


Inverse. (2016, August 22). 3D Printing ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Puppets | Inverse. Retrieved from

Jessy, U. (2017, April 02). How to Fill Gaps and Seams | 3D Printing | Prop Making. Retrieved from

Shapeways Inc. (n.d.). Pretty Small Things by PrettySmallThings – Shapeways Shops. Retrieved from (n.d.). Thingiverse – Digital Designs for Physical Objects. Retrieved from

Waniata, R., & Waniata, R. (2017, February 23). Laika mixed CGI, 3D Printing, and Stop Motion to Earn ‘Kubo’ Two Oscar Nods. Retrieved from


The End.