Incredible 3D Printed Octopod Underwater Vehicle

This has to be one of the most incredibly lovingly-detailed 3D printed models I have ever seen! These pictures show a 3D printed mechanical octopus vehicle or ‘octopod’ created by Sean Charlesworth, and printed on the Objet Connex500 multi-material 3D printer.

The 3D printed model comes complete with working features, LED lighting and some fine detail work that, just thinking about it, makes me want to pull my own remaining hairs out, one by one.

Along with the photos, the Objet blog now has the pleasure of bringing you the full interview transcript below, where I was able to ask Sean to fill in the gaps about his remarkable work:

(Sam Green): Sean, please tell us about your professional background and how you got into design?

(Sean Charlesworth): My undergrad was in Film & TV and I have spent the last 10 years repairing cameras and equipment for New York University. I recently finished a Masters at NYU in Digital Imaging and Design with a concentration in 3D modeling and printing. 3D printing really appealed to me since it combined hands on work and physical objects with digital design. The fact that I could build something like this with virtually no tools, molds and machinery was exciting.

 (SG): Why the Octopod? What’s the history behind your passion for this project?

 (SC): At the time I was planning a digital underwater scene for a lighting exercise and wanted to        include some objects. I’m a hard-surface modeler and didn’t feel comfortable tackling creatures so decided to make some kind of craft but didn’t want a typical submarine, etc. I’m a big fan of the Nautilus sub from Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” because it had an animal-like look while remaining really mechanical. Using that as a springboard I came up with the Octopod and tried to design it to be as practical as possible while being fantastical. The underwater scene never did materialize but I ended up using the idea for my thesis.

(SG): What are the main challenges with creating a model such as this?

(SC): Overall the biggest challenge was designing everything to fit together and work mechanically. Since my background is in modeling for the entertainment industry I was using Cinema 4D and Maya which are probably not the best choice when designing something so mechanical. I knew CAD would probably be a better choice but wanted to stick with what I know and also didn’t have the time to learn something new. This made things more challenging but was a valid workflow since so many different industries are using 3D printing now.

Of all the mechanical bits to work out, the tentacles were by far the hardest and required the most test prints. I knew the tentacles had to really come alive or the model would be a flop. I rejected traditional joints for various reasons and ended up printing a flexible core with Objet’s rubber-like Tango material and fusing Objet Vero rigid knuckles to it for detail. I modeled a small shaft down the center and inserted brass armature wires afterward so the tentacles could be posed dramatically. It took about four versions to get it right.

(SG): What’s were the main advantages of using the Objet Connex machine for thisproject?

(SC): I found the Objet Connex to be great for this project due to the multiple materials. While the ABS-like Digital Material would have ultimately been the best choice structurally, I didn’t want to deal with painting the model. I chose to do most of it with the Black and White Vero materials since I could digitally mix them and have something that looked great right out of the printer. I was also really happy with the resolution and precision of the parts.

I have to thank the NYU Advanced Media Studio for helping me through this complicated project. I was lucky that I could sit down with them and brainstorm solutions and workflows one-on-one. I think that with 3D printing reaching the masses we need to see more services like this, which can guide you through the process.

(SG): What do you plan to do with the Objet Connex system in future?

(SC): I plan on reprinting some improved parts for the Octopod and adding some details that I didn’t have time for initially. After that I would like to do a project using the ABS-like Digital Material and try some finishing and painting techniques on it.

(SG): Thanks for your time and wishing you all the very best in your future endeavors!

(SC): Thank you!

I highly recommend a visit to Sean’s blog where you can see a fantastic time-lapse of the entire octopod build process and some more photographs, complete with explanatory captions.

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