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Crafting your own 3D print buttons is an excellent beginner 3D print project for any age user inside or outside of the classroom. We’ve looked through the design libraries for 3D print buttons and were a little disappointed about what was out there, there’s a big opportunity here that is being missed in terms of truly showing off what 3D printing can do. This is a project that can easily be done in a weekend or in a classroom setting, whether that be an art class, home ec class, or otherwise.
Listen to the podcast here:
Crafting 3D Print Buttons
Today, we’re going to be a little critical of someone else’s project on 3D print buttons, but ultimately going to turn this into something positive, I hope, in terms of inspiration to do something, to take more opportunity with the materials and processes available to you in 3D printing.
A previous episode a couple months ago, we were talking about different ways at which you could do projects across your classrooms and various places. Different projects that would be ways to incorporate 3D printing into your lesson plans. We started talking about ways to incorporate 3D printing into the home ec lab, for instance. We thought about making 3D print buttons.
We went to research and try to find some really cool 3D print buttons. You know what, they’re not that exciting. We did find some 3D print buttons on Make It LEO, we found on their blog some 3D print buttons, some of the only really ones we could find. They were 3D printed and they were buttons. We’ll give them that. They really were, to me, just not even scratching the surface of what is possible. They still felt so flatbutton-like at the end of the day. Basic. It’s like, why would you 3D print those designs? To me, there really was no reason to.
I think that’s really where I think this could be a great simple project. Because this is really small, easy to print, something you could do in a classroom project. You could do with a couple of days of working or over a couple of classroom sessions where you sit down, you sketch, you come up with your idea, you get a design. Then you start to maybe make it in the computer and build it. Then you print some and then you have a reiteration process. I think that stretching your thought of what a button is is critically important. It needs to be more dimensional. You have an opportunity. It could help you clasp better so it doesn’t come unbuttoned. Just the form opportunities alone.
Obviously really the only limitation you have is you’ve got to be able to sew it on the fabric and it’s got to be able to fit through a button hole. That’s about you only limitations. It’s got to have a couple holes in it, that’s it. It can’t be tremendously three dimensional in terms of its height I would say, which means it can’t take that long to print.
I still think you could do some more in terms of the thinking of button printing on a build plate being a flat circle is on the build plate, or the theoretical circle that it’s in is on the build plate, and then the Z height being how thick it is. You can’t make it tremendously high but I still think you could do some different relief textures, relief patterns, play with positive and negative space. The only holes in a button don’t just have to be the holes that you’re using with the thread to attach it the fabric.
Somehow, the folks that did that project I guess didn’t really stretch the limits, stretch the potential of either you might call it reinventing a button or just making a button more your own and more decorative and more interesting.
Also, this is a great opportunity to put parts together, where you can fit things together because you might want to get the multiple colors going and you don’t have that kind of printer. I have a big sewing background. We’ve mentioned before that I have a textile design degree. I’ve made a lot of things and I’ve used a lot of different types of buttons. There are buttons where you cover them and then you snap them together. There are buttons that operate more like snaps in that sense. There’s no reason for you not to be able to create a button that has all the characteristics it needs but then being able to add more once it’s in the clothing or once it’s on the item as it is.
I also think there’s a great opportunity in terms of a learning experience for relatively new people to 3D printing, students who are learning, is to explore with multiple colors but in a single color, single extrusion FFF 3D printer where you would stop the process part way through, change a filament color and continue. Then play with a different shape between the first color at the lower layers and the second color in the upper layers and get a lot more graphic quality going on between colors. Even maybe doing a third color.
You can predictably pause on a lot of machines, as we learned in a past episode a long time ago. Or pause and embed something cool, like a mirror or like a piece of fabric so that then it matches your clothing that you’re making or your object that you’re creating.
I think there’s a lot more exploration that can be done here. This is a really simple product to tackle because you don’t have an extreme size at your issue. You don’t have all of these different variables. You’re giving yourself a slightly constrained place within to work.
To me, I think that that’s a gateway into doing other kinds of fashion accessories. For “jewelry” type items, fashion accessories. You might think of it traditionally old school as like a brooch or something or think about maybe making your own award. If you’re a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout, they always have these little award pins, patches, whatever, that go on.
You could maybe make a 3D printed one that then you sew on to your uniform or whatever. I know that may break some rules. I’m sorry if I’m encouraging kids to break the rules and not have a patch be traditional, but this is about innovation. I think there should be a 3D print Girl Scout patch. I don’t see why not. The Boy Scouts have similar things.
I think that there’s a lot of opportunity there. Like we said, I think these are simple, quick projects that are not overly complicated. I still think even within some restrictions of thickness or overall size, there’s a lot of design to be explored and a lot of opportunities there. I would love to see what people come up with if they really take those constraints away from themselves of thinking of what a traditional button or a patch might be.
This is just one of those simple projects we wanted to point out there and ways in which to integrate it into your education and your experiment. Also, if that is what you’re challenging yourself with. Take on some of these very simple objects and then start to think about how you’re personalizing, how you’re expanding on them, what you’re doing with them.
Actually Lannea and I, our daughter Lannea, our seven year old, this past weekend she came up to me. “Daddy, I want to do some 3D printing today.” Got her back on TinkerCAD and she made herself a new bracelet that was not a complete design on its own. It was meant to be the basis or framework for a charmed bracelet. She really had to think about how she would attach charms to it, Shopkin charms.
She had to make negative spaces or holes through a piece she was printing and ended up printing it out and trying to put it in her hand. It was a little too small and so we scaled it up and did a different size. She really was thinking about how she can do something different and use some existing objects or found objects and combine them with a 3D printed piece.
All these projects are simple in that they didn’t take that long to do. Like we said, you could do it within a few hours or a day, a couple of sessions of class or something. I think she actually did it all in one day, the first generation. That’s really the fun stuff. That’s exciting.
I think another project along those lines that I think she may need to do next is maybe to create a different kind of a switch plate for in her bedroom. She’s always trying to accessorize her room and play with some colors and patterns and things there. Obviously I wouldn’t let her put it on herself, I’ll do it. Although she’ll want to try because our daughter likes to roll up her sleeves and get out a screwdriver or whatever else it is. We love that about our girls, that they want to put their hands on things.
I think that’s really the thing here, is that just picking out buttons from a fabric store and when you don’t find what you want and being able to say, “I can sew anything. I just learned how to sew anything that I wanted. I learned how to create a pattern and I learned how to do all of this.” Why not take it one step further and create 3D print buttons that are exactly the right size buttons with exactly the right size design that finishes your outfit and makes it perfect?
I think that’s where we want to give that sense to our students, of that empowerment that 3D printing and all of these maker projects can give to them. We’d like to be bringing other projects like this to you. If any of you teachers, educators or just enthusiasts, makers have some other good suggestions for good little projects that people can use to express themselves, explore different design opportunities but also to help them learn and explore the possibilities of 3D printing, make a comment in the blog post or fill out a form at the bottom of the home page to ask us anything or just send us an email at info@3DStartPoint.com, or go on social media @3DStartPoint.
Especially when you’ve got projects that are great weekend project or week long camp style workshops projects, we want to spread the word on those because I think everyone can learn so much from doing those. It feels satisfactory, like you accomplished something in that amount of time. It doesn’t feel like it’s this long learning curve. We want to do some things that give you some satisfaction along the way and keep you going, keep you inspired.
Hope you enjoyed that little discussion on 3D print buttons or at least hope you didn’t mind us going off on what we thought was a project that really just hadn’t taken it far enough. We always like to see things getting pushed further because of the potential of 3D printing.
- Back to 3D Printing School
- TinkerCAD Review
- Pausing 3D Prints
- Best of 3D Print Halloween Designs and Inspiration
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