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This sculpture is inspired by one of nature’s most beautiful and captivating sights, starling murmurations which can be seen during midwinter. These swarms can be up to a million strong and appear as one giant organism rather than individual birds. I wanted to capture a little of that magic in a 3D print so I interpreted their movement and modeled this beautiful sculpture with a computational modelling tool, Grasshopper for Rhino.
Challenging to model but simple to print, this model does not require any infill at all and can be printed with only very minimal supports. A challenging aspect is ensuring bed adhesion, I used a basic Ultimaker Original and I don’t use a heated bed but masking tape instead and it works great as long as the bed is well leveled and the nozzle is well primed before printing, best use a skirt. Only the thinnest part number 6 needed supports, you will have to experiment with your printer and its capabilities. I use a slicer that allows me to delete support as I wish, so I left out as many supports as possible because they would spoil the surface quality of the print somewhat.
You can print each part separately or group them together, take your time to get the settings perfect using small test pieces. It will be worth it when you have 12 silky smooth parts ready to be carefully glued together. I recommend using super glue that sets transparent, I used normal superglue and it set matte white so I had to paint over the join lines and this was not desirable. I will remember this for next time.
This print is in black PLA and is meant to be a sculptural ornament and it’s signed by the artist! The next one will be printed with translucent PLA and have digitally controlled LEDs inside. Looking forward to that as I hope to approximate the movement of the real bird in flight.
Recommended Printer Settings
Printer build volume - 200mm x 200mm x 200mm
Filament - PLA
Nozzle Dia. - 0.4mm
Nozzle Temp. - I set my print head at 218 degrees Celsius for my particular PLA filament. You will have to find the perfect temp for your filament brand. I find transparent filament require slightly higher temps.
Extrusion Multiplier - 102%
Line Width - 0.42mm
Layer Height - 0.20mm
Initial Layer Height - 0.15mm
Print Speed - Between 45 - 60mm/s
Wall Settings - 2 wall
Top/Bottom Settings - Zero
Infill - Zero
Supports - Zero
Retract - On
Fan - On
Spiral Mode /Vase Mode: Off
Skirt - 5-10 lines to make sure nozzle is well primed
Skirt Offset: 1mm
Brim - No