Pioneer Ball Project Hairy Tutorial

Written by
Geoffrey Frankl

  1. The “parent” model for the Pioneer Ball panel was designed in Fusion 360. I don’t normally work in with that program, so my first move was to download both the STL and OBJ versions of this file. I was either going to modify the file using Mudbox or Tinkercad. The first program utilizes OBJs and is more of an organic sculpting program. Tinkercad utilizes the manipulation of simple geometries to create more complex shapes. I wasn’t sure which way I was going to go, because I wasn’t yet sure of what my design was going to look like.


  2. I was inspired by the Hairy Lion project found on Thingiverse. I really liked the idea of being able to customize and shape the "hair" on my section of the ball after the printing process was complete. Using Mudbox, I've had prior experience adding hair-like texture to my designs. And as good as the texture looked, it was by no means ultra-realistic. Needless to say, I was awed by the prospect of having life-like hair. I even printed out my own Hairy Lion so that I could see exactly how the hair strands functioned. Based upon this experience and a little experimentation, I felt like Tinkercad was going to be the better design program for what I wanted to create.


  3. I was able to import the STL file directly into Tinkercad. Through this interface, I could have adjusted scaling and dimensions. However, I left everything at default values so that my panel of the ball would fit with the other designs, as intended.


  4. Once in Tinkercad, I reoriented the panel. I did this because the Ultimaker 2 printer I use is able to add more detail in the Z axis by controlling the build plate level moments from layer to layer. I wanted that detail to be accentuated by the separation of each layer of hair on the ball. Since my plan was to have the hair perpendicular to the base of the Pioneer Ball, I need the panel to be oriented vertically, instead of horizontally.


  5. The next move was to find the right shape to use to generate my strands of hair. In the Tinkercad Community Shape Generators I found that I liked the Sun the best. The best part about the shape generators is that users are given the ability to modify aspects of the object.


  6. Using Tinkercad's duplication tool, I spaced the copied version of the Sun to be a fraction of a millimeter above the original. A hidden feature of the aforementioned tool that made this much more manageable, was that continuing to duplicate the original object placed new iterations positioned a standard distance away from one another. This distance is the same as the one that was established with the first duplication.


  7. After the Sun was duplicated to cover the entire surface of the Ball, I then adjusted each Sun’s position so that it followed the curve of the Ball.


  8. Next, I used Tinkercad’s Hole function to trim the fat from the Pioneer Ball. Tinkercad also has a Workplane tool that allows users to move the work plane onto any surface. This allowed for more precision when placing the boxes that would eventually be used as holes. My goal was to remove all parts of the Sun shapes that were superfluous to the end final design. When all of the boxes were positioned as desired, I turned them into holes and grouped all objects together.


  9. Based upon the Hairy Lion example, I began the process of creating a shell to inclose the strands of “hair” emanating out from the Pioneer Ball. To do this, I sized a sphere to match the contours of the hair. Then, I used a series of hole to hollow out and trim the sphere to precisely encapsulate my design.


  10. The shell needed further refinement and positioning adjustments to achieve the desired effect.


  11. Finally, I got the ball, hair and shell positioned in an acceptable fashion. I wasn’t too concerned about the strands the went past the shell, because that was all to be removed with the shell after printing.


  12. I used the latest version of Cura to slice the design.

    • Layer Height 0.15mm (for detail)
    • Wall Thickness 1.2mm (for strength)
    • Infill 10% (for print time/material use)
    • Print Speed 40 mm/s (for print quality)
    • Printed with supports and a 3 mm brim.


  13. I printed the Pioneer Ball on my Ultimaker 2. The entire design took about 16 hours print, and about an hour to go through the finishing process.


  14. Supports on the bottom needed removal.


  15. The shell needed to be cut away as well.


  16. After removing the outer shell, I saw that I still had all of the vertical supports to remove, too.


  17. Once the ball was free from all supports, I was then able to start shaping the hair strands.


  18. First, I strung individual plastic beads on strands of hair to enhance the appearance of a customized hair-do. Then, I used a blow dryer to soften the plastic strands of hair. Using a long screw driver and my fingers, I shaped the hair into a faux-hawk while the plastic was still warmed and malleable. After the success of the first print, I realized that the shell I had created was not as important to the effect as I had thought it would be. Also, I was inspired to print more panels to attempt different hair-styles.