DIY Christmas Decorations with a 3D Printer

It’s the holidays again. It’s getting cold (even here in Arizona), Christmas music is playing, and I’ve found it’s a pretty good excuse to use the 3d printer for some DIY christmas decorations.

While we were at IKEA, my wife found a geometric deer model she really liked, but wanted a couple smaller ones to go with it. Sounded like a pretty good way to use the printer, and to save some money on buying more Christmas decorations.

First step, as with a lot of my 3d printing designs, started over in Shapr3D on the iPad. I didn’t do any measurements of the original deer, but just eyeballed it so it looked close. Since they were going to be scaled down anyways, getting an exact match wasn’t super important. For this, the basic plan was to sketch out the basic outline of the deer, and use those curves to extrude the pieces needed.

This is what it looks like with just the curves. There’s a lot of intersections, but it allows for the extrusion of a lot of different pieces out of this same plane.

And here’s what those pieces look like. They’ll be glued after being printed — it’ll make the printing process really easy this way, and it’s easy to glue.

After that, it was exporting and sending over to the printer, Shapr3D handled the entire creation process just fine. I printed these at 0.1mm without any supports or rafts, and after some issues with leveling the bed, they didn’t come out too bad, and were pretty quick to print.

Next, “post processing”… that is, glueing and finishing. The glueing is really straight forwarded. These PLA pieces do fine with basic crafting Krazy glue, and look like this when assembled. One trick — these glue together a lot better if you lightly sand the contact points first.

After that, it’s just finishing the surface. Depending on what the model is, that could mean a number of different things. For this, it’s really just some light sanding followed by painting, and then a light coat of varnish to help hold the paint on. All that’s needed her is just a rough sanding sponge to rough it up a bit and flatten out some of the uneven edges in the printing process. Sand. Inspect. Repeat.

After that comes painting. If I’m doing small work I’ll use a brush but for large uniform surfaces, I find the spray paint works great. My wife wanted it metallic, so this is just using some basic metallic spray paint that was lying around. A couple coats later and after drying, here’s what it looks like (the bigger model this is modeled after is in the background).

Not too shabby. Finally, just a light coat of varnish to hold this together and give it a slight finish. The big model has a pretty dull finish, so I’m using a Satin varnish I picked up on black friday. Dull, but just a small bit of gloss. Honestly, with a model like this it’s pretty subtle as to the varnish effect, but it does help give the paint a little extra protection.

And there you have it, completed and added to the other 3d printed items on the table (I only printed those, didn’t design them). Custom printed decorations that took a little time and filament but were otherwise free to make.

If you’d like to print this, I’ve gone and posted to model here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1930156