Robots March!

Once a year in the month of March, artists from all over the world participate in a popular online art challenge known as March of Robots.  As described in the contest rules, the goal is to draw a new robot illustration in March for 31 straight days. It's the brainchild of concept artist Dacosta Bayley, otherwise known as Dacosta(!).

This year, a set of amazing entries by 3D artist Joseph Drust caught our eye. Joseph set out to do the seemingly impossible, instead of hand drawing each design, he 3D modeled each one using ZBrush.

This is a challenge in and of itself, but Joseph took it one step further and set out to also 3D print each of his designs on his SLA Form2 printer. 

That's a unique 3D printed design for 31 straight days! For anyone with experience on SLA printers you know how crazy of a challenge this must of been, It's basically asking for an invitation to failure, especially since 3D printers are subject to failing often. Joseph pulled it off however, finishing 31 miniature robot prints with almost flawless execution.  

Process Shots.

We sat down with the artist to find out more about his approach to the popular art contest, the challenges of 3D printing and his upcoming projects.

Mold3D: What made you want to do a 3D print-a-day for March of Robots?

Joseph: I had been meaning to partake in Dacosta’s March of Robots ( but never got around to it till this year.  The event takes place during the month of March with the goal of drawing a new robot illustration each day for 31 days.  Since my work is more 3D instead of 2D I decided to use ZBrush and sculpt a new robot each day (each robot took around one hour to sculpt.)   

With the completed version of the model being in 3D the idea of printing the robots on my Form2 just clicked.  After I printed the first one however I thought for sure I set myself up for failure; 31 printed robots is a lot!  I think I would go with a shorter month next time!

 Mold3D: How do you feel about the quality of the new Form 2 ? Did it meet your expectations?

Joseph: The Form2 absolutely met my expectations.  I only had my Form2 for a little while before I started creating the robots.  The robots were a great test for the machine because of their size and each print came out flawlessly.  Each Robot was 1.5” (38.1mm) in the largest dimension.  After I completed the daily robot I would wirelessly send (which is awesome by the way) the model to the printer in Preform then start the print.  The prints on average took around 7 hours at .025mm.  

Mold3D: 31 prints in the month is pretty significant for testing the reliability of a 3D printer. What was your failure rate?

Joseph: Well I can vouch for the reliability. I had one robot failed print and it was due to a power outage caused by a thunderstorm (I have my Form2 on a battery backup but two hours without power will cause a print to fail.)   The only other issue I ran into was accidentally breaking off the antenna from the March 02 robot mid way through the month.  So out of all the prints photographed only 2 were not the first version sent to the printer. 

Mold3D: Do you think 3D printers are at a point now where designers can use them as a final output or just as a prototyping tool?

Joseph: They are getting closer for sure especially in terms of quality and resolution that can be achieved.  The current downfalls for 3D printing really revolves around speed, time involving cleanup, and material cost. Sending a single model to print while you sleep is great; however if I wanted to print 100 of a single robot it is going to take some time (This is where traditional molds and casting still works better).

Group shot of all 31 printed robots.

Mold3D: The surface finish on these look smooth, what post processing did you do?

Joseph: Hardly anything at all.  For each robot I would remove the print from the bed, soak it in the 2 IPA baths, cure/dry it in the sun for a bit, remove the supports, then apply a light coat of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer.  After the primer dried I took a quick picture and posted it on Instagram.  So the finish is straight from the machine I didn’t do any sanding or additional cleanup on these.  

Mold3D: What was your design inspiration for the robots?

Joseph: My usual designs end up looking like military-esque in style (too much Gi-Joe/Transformers as a child).  I did a few test robots with this style before March and found out that I was only going to be able to complete a head or bust in the time I wanted to spend on each one.  I really wanted to do a full robot for each day and when I started creating the first robot it ended up being more simplified and the style stuck for the rest of the month.  

The majority of the designs came from me finding shapes I liked and building from there.  I would start from a simple primitive inside of ZBrush then append/insert other primitives. I would then move these around, distort them, and change them until I would see something familiar or appealing.  Inspiration for me usually doesn’t come from any single source; but rather a mixture of what I have been exposed to recently.  For the 30th robot there is some Pokemon inspiration for sure (my son was watching a lot of Pokemon towards the end of the month).

In general if I know the specific topic of something I want to create (eg. robots) I try to increase my visual vocabulary with reference on this topic as much as possible.  I have a few bookcases full or art books from films, games, and specific artists.  I’ll pull a bunch of these books and just look through them creating a huge melting pot of images in my head.   

Mold3D:  Any plans to sell these or build upon this project?

Joseph: Not sure yet; first goal was to get through all 31 and have them all printed out .  I will probably be creating a few larger FDM versions of the fan favorites. I have been pondering articulating them as well. 

Mold3D:   What benefits do you think 3D printing has to offer the digital artist?

Joseph: One of the biggest benefits I see is getting another view or perspective on your work. When being a digital artist items like Field of View (FOV) and lighting play a huge part of how you perceive something.  When you take a 3D model and print it out you can spot flaws instantly. 

As an example: this last Halloween I created a few CyberMan helmets out of PLA for my son and I.  Before I printed the full 1:1 scale helmets I printed a bunch of 4” versions.  Now when the model was viewed in ZBrush and KeyShot it looked how I expected but when It was printed out I instantly noticed errors.  I ended up doing 5 revisions with a 4” print in between before locking in the final design.  Doing these test prints saved me a lot of time and materials. 

Another thing that 3D Printing does is that it brings more sensory experiences to your art.  If your art remains digital the viewer may only be able to perceive it with sight.  If you take this same model and now 3D print it, a viewer can now be exposed to the model with touch, smell, sight, and taste (I wouldn’t recommend taste though ).  Also who doesn’t want to have toys and 3D Printed models all over the place? 

Mold3D:   What’s your next 3D printing project?

Joseph: Ohh, there are too many to count!  I have been experimenting with CNC milling recently and incorporating FDM printing + SLA printing + CNC machining into Cosplay projects.  So using the CNC for the largest items, FDM for middle size parts, then the SLA for fine detail areas. There is something about creating a 3D model then printing it out large enough so that you can become the 3D model that I find interesting. 

For the next immediate project I have a 70% completed 1:1 BB-8 printed out of PLA. I will probably work on finishing that up completely before moving on to another project. Needless to say my 3D Printers will be consuming PLA and Resin in the future for sure.   

Mold3D: Thanks Joseph for taking the time to talk with us. Looking forward to your next project!

Which robot design is your favorite? 

Joseph plans on printing the winner in a larger format so please help him decide the outcome!