This series explores the world of 3D printing through the most navel-gazing image possible: the selfie.
“Nutella selfie! Nutella selfie! Nutella selfie!” I repeated to myself in time to my footsteps as I walked to New Lab, a multidisciplinary design and technology center in Brooklyn, where Ultimaker is based. Apparently all I needed to do to make this a reality was hook up a paste extruder to the Ultimaker desktop 3D printer and my face in three-dimensional Nutella would be a reality.
Structur3D made a big splash in 2014 with its universal paste extruder called the Discov3ry. In reality it’s mostly a solution for 3D printing gaskets, but it garnered coverage everywhere from Mashable to Food & Wine with headlines such as “New 3-D Printing Accessory Will Create Your Portrait in Nutella,” all of them featuring a slick design that showed an amazing amount of detail and precision. So I thought this installment of “Eat My Face” would be a breeze.
Boy, was I wrong.
Yes, if you hook up the Discov3ry to an Ultimaker 3D printer, you can, in theory, print a selfie. But you need a 3D-printing Sherpa slash genius to guide you through the process.
Fortunately I had one: Luis Rodriguez Alcalde, who runs 3 Digital Cooks and has worked for Loomia, Autodesk, and Natural Machines. Luis helped me design a selfie that would work (think a simple cartoon with thick lines) while he connected the two setups and did some engineering magic to get them to work together. Then he took a photo of my picture and redesigned it in Tinkercad to, you know, actually work for 3D printing. Last he used Slic3r to generate G-code to convert our model into printing instructions for the Ultimaker. The PancakePainter this was not.
Finally we were ready to print. And everyone in the entire open-air space of New Lab knew it: They were treated to the lovely sounds of the Ultimaker working, somewhere between a fax machine and dial-up modem. Plus it works really S L O W L Y, so they were able to enjoy these sounds for a good five minutes.
But whatever. Selfie. IN NUTELLA.
“Nutella was a smart choice,” said Matt Griffin, the director of community for Ultimaker, as we watched the machine do its work. “It behaves like a thermoplastic,” which means it’s the ideal consistency to print.
Uh, something like that. The Discov3ry didn’t offer nearly the precision as other getups I’ve written about, and the Nutella expanded on the cake after it was extruded from the tube. Here was the result:
One 3D printer, one 3D printing add-on, two experts, one writer, six hours, and one Nutella “selfie.”