Super Secret Squirrel

This was a big secret back in June when I did it, but I neglected to post anything after the need for secrecy passed.

My 6th wedding anniversary was this past June and I wanted to do something special and unique, but not ostentatious, for the missus. It ended up being her idea – she asked for a pin of one of our dogs made on the CRASH Space MakerBot.

Here’s what I did:

Chihuahua Cameo

I had access to both black and white ABS, so a cameo seemed perfect. But there was a lot to figure out.

The 3D design was the hardest, since I had little experience doing it. I had to figure out what tools to use and what scale to make things at so they could print. The design itself is very simple – a flat oval and flat chihuahua silhouette, cemented together with a pin attached to the back.

The silhouette was taken from a photo of our younger chihuahua, Bowser. I used Inkscape and a graphics tablet to trace a vector outline which I could export to some format a 3D modeling program could read.

After importing the silhouette outline into ViaCAD (I would have used the open source Blender, but Blender is kind of complicated, and ViaCAD is not crazy expensive and has a nice interface). The black oval was easy to model in ViaCAD.

Getting the parts to print well was the next challenge. I had just gotten the MakerBot printing and it wasn’t dialed in terribly well. I went for the overkill approach and printed a bunch of both parts, then picked the best of each.

Chihuahua Cameo Parts

Acetone is an excellent ABS solvent, and works well as a glue. I experimented with sanding the parts, and found that ABS sands very well, but decided to go for the bot-made look. I figured it could be a good conversation starter if nothing else.

Attaching the pinback was tough. I attempted to use acetone to dissolve the back enough that I could press the pinback into the ABS. I ended up using epoxy, which is not an ideal adhesive in this scenario, but it worked. Next time, I plan to make a slurry of chopped up ABS dissolved in acetone, and get this mixture through the mounting holes in the pinback.

I plan to fully document the process and make a tutorial out of it that can be used as a basic intro to 3D design and printing using the MakerBot. It was quite a bit of work figuring it all out, but the next project of this type should go much more quickly.

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