Sculptor and Mathematician Join Forces to Create World’s First Entirely 3D Printed Mobiles #3dthursday

Sculptor Marco Mahler and mathematician Henry Segerman have joined forces to bring a very special and dynamic form of mathematical sculptures to the world of 3D printing — the world’s first entirely 3D printed mobiles!

These 3D printed mobiles are the result of a collaboration between Marco Mahler, a kinetic sculptor specializing in mobiles, and Henry Segerman, a research fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne.

These mobiles come out of the 3D-printer completely assembled as shown in the photos and video. They are made of separate loose pieces connected to each other. The balance points for these mobiles were calculated to 1/1000th of a millimeter (1/25360th of an inch). The models for some of these mobiles were drawn up “by hand”, others were created utilizing scripts that we wrote. Some of the mobiles, like Mobile 4.2, are designed with a very small increase or decrease in thickness from one part to the next, something that is not possible to do with conventional handmade mobiles. Utilizing scripts also allows for designs that would be very time consuming to make by hand, such as the Quaternary Tree (Level 6), which has 1365 pieces.

We met via Twitter (Marco lives in Portland, Oregon, Henry in Melbourne, Australia) in early February 2013 when Henry was looking for suggestions for a motor for one of his 3D printed kinetic sculptures. A conversation ensued about the possibilities for making 3D printed mobiles. After about 300 emails, several conversations over Skype, hundreds of lines of code, and a number of test prints and trial-and-error experiments, the result is the collection of mobiles that is now available through our shop at Shapeways (a 3D printing service company). After an extensive Google search, it appears that these are the first fully 3D printed mobiles in the world.

All models are available in “White Strong & Flexible”, a laser sintered nylon plastic, one of the most popular materials for 3D-printing. Some of the smaller models are also available in “Black Strong & Flexible” and a variety of polished colors. This material is heatproof to 80C/176F degrees. Higher temperatures may significantly change material properties. It is also dishwasher safe (“Yay, finally a mobile we can put in the dishwasher!”).

If you’re not sure what 3D printing is, the Wikipedia page for it explains it rather well. If you’re not sure what a mobile is, see my definition, short history and photos of my handmade mobiles….

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3d printed art mobile hanging kinetic wire sculpture marco mahler 5

3d printing ceiling mobile modern kinetic sculpture for sale marco mahler 6

3d print hanging mobile contemporary abstract artist marco mahler 7

3d printed art mobile hanging kinetic wire sculpture marco mahler 8

Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!

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