3D Printed Silhouettes

I remember sitting at Disneyland between rides, a compromise to sit still long enough to have a paper silhouette cut. My grandparents had them of my mom and uncles, and my mom was determined to continue this crafty, beautiful tradition.

While brainstorming ideas for a 3D design and 3D printing five day workshop for elementary and middle school students I facilitated, I came up with the idea of creating 3D printed silhouettes like the ones I sat for at Disneyland. However, instead of paper the students would use laptops, software, and a 3D printer to create their silhouettes.

The classroom was near a white stairwell door with bright, natural light streaming in during the afternoon when the class met. We set up a stool for the students to sit in front of the door in profile. The laptop was set on a cart. We captured the images in Photo Booth, imported them to iPhoto to adjust the contrast, then converted the files to .svg in Inkscape.

The test model was printed on my MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. I added a small frame and a little hoop to hang the silhouette in a window.

The students' sihouettes were printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2. The first model was printed larger than subsequent models because of time considerations.

The silhouettes worked best if the girls pinned back their hair, or at least had it back over their shoulders: otherwise, the silhouette might have too little detail.

This is a great starter 3D printing project to encourage you to use your powerful new tool to create, rather than just printing things from Thingiverse. With a few simple steps (I outline the details of the Inkscape process here) you have a unique keepsake that would make a great Mother's Day present.