Birds for The Birds

The Birds requires a lot of miniature birds and I thought about that when I proposed my project. But I thought it would be easy to find and buy the birds I wanted  but that was a big mistake. After searching every online miniature shop, our local miniature store, and several miniature shows, I was only able to get these birds:


I’ll be able to use the small ones but they, along with the crow and seagull I need in great quantities, were just too expensive. So it was time to learn a new skill. Last year it was laser cutting which I learned how to do at Nextfab Studio here in Philadelphia. So I took two 3D printing classes at Nextfab but didn’t want to use their machines because it would take me too much time to perfect my models and finally print them and that, too, is expensive. So I bought an inexpensive 3D printer to experiment with and while I did not get any successful bird prints from it, I did learn the not-so-easy art of 3D printing, at home.

On to a better 3D printer, rated by Make magazine as one of the best in its price range: the Makerbot Replicator 2.


It’s not too big and fairly easy to use. I have to tell you that preparing complex models like those for a realistic looking birds is not easy. I have used models made for at least five different 3D modeling programs and have spent hours cleaning them up. I did not want to model my own because I like the detail that I found in the ready-made (and ready for purchase) birds. Once you get a model and pose it the way you want, it has to be processed to be printer ready and exported as an STL file (I am trying to make this a simple explanation but this is not an easy process). Finally the model has to be sent to the software for the 3D printer where it can be rotated (to have it print flat on the bed), sized, and placed on the printing bed. Discouraged yet? Wait till you see what you can do with it once you learn all this!

The printer works by forcing melted plastic out of a small nozzle and adding layer upon layer of plastic in just the right place.
The result is a bird that can be replicated over and over.
The result is a bird that can be replicated over and over.
This particular bird took many trials because it wouldn't stick easily to the surface.
This particular bird took many trials because it wouldn’t stick easily to the surface.
This one printed easily and was easy to replicated.
I ended up printing three at a time. This model took about 24 minutes to produce three.
When I was first learning the machine, it has a clear plastic rather than the black I used later. I like the crystal bird but it would have required too much painting to get looking realistic.
I did not purposely make this one with teeth but it definitely looks menacing.
I coated each printed bird with satin textured Mod Podge to cut down on the glare from the plastic.
The Mod Podge bird is on the left. I think the patterns made by the printer actually look like feathers.

So, The Birds is coming, and I still have more to print. This has been a long process but now I know how to do 3D printing. Stay young and learn a new skill every year!

P.S. I have no clue how to attach these guys. Can’t get wire into their legs…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s