LEAH: 3D Printed Nursery Mural

Does it get cooler than 3D printing things for your kid?  I say 'No, it does not'

As with most new parents, my wife and I have channeled the majority of our pre-birth excitement into designing the nursery. We took to Pinterest for ideas.  One recurring piece in all pinworthy nurseries was the baby's name on the wall in some unique way.  Here I felt I had a little leg up.  I called in a favor to my dear old friend, the one and only, Jessica Hische to see if she had time to design us some amazing lettering for our little Leah.   She said yes (because she rules) and a little while later she sent us her file. We both loved it right away. 

 The second I saw it I thought to myself, "I could totally 3D print that thing."  It was something I had in the back of mind, but Jess's style moves in and out of '3D-print-able' quite a bit with it's complexity, and I didn't want to bug her with any kind of unnecessary guidelines to work around since I wasn't even sure I was going to try it.  But alas, this was totally printable, and I began figuring out how I was going to make this work.  


The most obvious hurdle in this project is the size. I wanted the width of the piece to match the width of the changing table it was going above. When I scaled it up the dimensions it came out to 18? H x 40? W. The bed of my 3D printer is only 6? x 9? So some planning was needed.

The basic workflow would be to import all splines to 3DS Max directly from Jess's Illustrator file and extrude.  In theory, if I could keep all the editing/creation to the Illustrator file, I would never run into mismatching files.  This idea (originally thought of for organization) ended up being the saving grace of the project when it came to getting the piece on the wall (more on that later). 


I started with the white lines behind the letters. There are 26 white lines(depending how you count them). Some were broken up into 2 parts, some into 3. I think all in all there were 34 pieces.   In the AI file, I added in circle-splines small enough to house a 18-gauge brad nail.  I then boolean'd out two such holes into each printed piece.  Then I glued in the brad nails into the holes and sanded everything for paint.  (White semigloss). 

The letters were extra tricky because of the size of the printer. Each piece was broken up into 4 pieces (5 for the H). Fastening them together was a bit of a test, but a combination of printed recesses/fasteners and a nice "slurry-glue" composed of ABS plastic and acetone (yyeahhhh science, bitch) got them to hold together super nicely. Adding a little ABS/acetone slurry to the printing deck before each print helped reduce curling of the print so the pieces would align perfectly*. I also boolean'd out recesses for the white swirls and additional screw holes for mounting it to the wall.

*ain't nothing perfect. insert spackle and sanding. Then painted everything yellow.


This next bit I'm super proud of.  Since I did everything in the same illustrator file, I was able to print it at 100% scale, tape it to the wall, and drill through the circle splines used to create the brad nail and screw holes for mounting.  While this may sound like a "works on paper, will never work in real life" scenario, it worked perfectly.   Then it was just a matter of placing all my white swirls and letters.

That's pretty much it.  Feel free to comment or ask any questions.

Here are some pics of Leah through the first couple years