Twister is an artwork developed using a parametric algorithm.
The underlying mathematical description is then interpreted to produce a set of shaped parts that are 3D printed. Once printed the parts are carefully painted using acrylic paint, laid out and glued as required. The result is an eye-catching piece with a mathematical beauty that looks different from every angle.
What you’ll need
• 3D printer or access to one from a hackerspace (I use an Ultimaker original).
• PLA filament (about 24m)
• A0 card (mount board)
• Acrylic paints of your choice
• Paint brushes
• Glue (Bostik all purpose is good)
• Cocktail sticks to spread the glue
Generate STL files (Optional)
My artwork is usually designed using a parameterised algorithm. You can adjust the parameters to change various features of the algorithm to produce a completely original design or to change the size. Alternatively skip this step and use the STL files included for the twister shown above (approx. 50cm diameter).
You can learn more how to generate the stl files in the orginal recipe.
Printing the parts
The 3D model needs to be interpreted by a “slicer” which is a piece of software that slices up the model and produces the tool path required for the 3D printer. I use Cura as the slicer and slice at 0.1mm printing at about 70mm per second. The 3D printer takes about 45mins – 1hr to print each vane of the twister so about 24 hours total.
One tip is to keep the parts in a stack in the correct order and ensure they don’t get reordered throughout the whole making process.
If they do it’s not a disaster as you can line them up and work out the correct order – each part is slightly different to the next.
Note: the STL files provided produce a twister about 48cm diameter. This is about the largest that you can make using a 3D printer with a 20cm x 20cm print bed.
3D printers can print using various coloured filaments, but the twister looks way better if the two main surfaces are painted in contrasting colours. Acrylic paints are easy to use and you can paint straight onto PLA that has been printed by a 3D printer. The surface finish looks much better than raw PLA too being matt and less reflective.
However, to carefully paint each surface of each part ensuring neat edges and brush strokes is very time consuming and requires lots of patience. Each face will need two coats of acrylic and expect it to take 30-60 minutes per piece to paint (spread out over time to allow drying of each coat and each side).
Cut the card to the relevant square size to comfortably fit the entire circle of the twister. I make each side of the square about 10cm wider than the outer diameter of the twister.
The simplest way to mark up would be to mark out a faint circle in the centre of the square of card of the relevant internal diameter (8cm by default) and then layout the finished pieces around the surface of the circle ensuring even spacing. This will get reasonable results.
I use a more complex method to ensure the result is very accurate and that there is no marking visible on the card. This involves marking out a template on squared paper and then carefully laying this centred on the square of card and push a pin through the template and into the card to mark out the exact locations of the various vanes of the twister. I find just two or three points per vane is adequate, one close to the inside circle, and then one or two more where the part curves the most – this will vary for each vane so you need to ensure that you start with the correct part.
I marked up the template by using Netfabb Basic to slice the composite STL. This outputs a scaled image on a grid as shown from which you can translate the coordinates of the relevant parts of each vane.
Each of the vanes needs to be glued to the card in precisely the right place using your pinholes for guidance. Again this can be quite time consuming if you are very careful not to get glue anywhere but the part that needs to be stuck down. I use Bostik All Purpose adhesive. This is quite rubbery making it good to work with and not too stringy.
I squeeze a small blob (5mm diameter) into a plastic pot and then use a cocktail stick to pick up a small amount and apply to the underside of each painted part. Work on one part at a time it will take a few minutes to carefully apply a bead of glue to the underside of the part from inside to outside.
The glue will be fairly dry by this point, but will stick well when lined up and firmly pressed onto the card. Start from the inside and lay carefully to cover the alignment holes you made if following the markup procedure above.
Hold firmly in place for 30 seconds and then ideally place something heavy (some neoprene foam with a book on top works well) on it for a few more minutes to ensure it sticks well.
Once you’ve finished placing all pieces the design is complete, leave it flat for a while for the glue to fully harden and then handle carefully as bending the card to much will cause the pieces to come loose.
I frame the pieces in an enclosed box frame. This protects and seals the work which otherwise will gather dust over time. I’ve found Picture Frames Express (https://www.pictureframesexpress.co.uk) to be very good, they do several deep box frames and produce custom frames to your specification with a wide choice of mount colours.
If you choose not to frame it I would mount it on a more rigid backing board – maybe glue the painted parts directly onto a board that you’ve prepared for hanging instead of onto card.
When complete hang on the wall somewhere with plenty of light and where you will see it from many different angles. And most of all, enjoy