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  1. #1

    Best Material For A Bird Fountain?


    This is my first post on the 3D Print Board. I have a project that I've been working on for a year. I live in NYC and I've been feeding birds on my fire escape. I've attracted blue jays, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, and house finches. All of them are beautiful birds and they bring joy to my life. Simple pleasures.

    Besides feeding these birds I also want to provide fresh water for them. Every water fountain I've seen online is a plug-in water fountain and being that my fountain is outside on a fire escape I can not use a corded fountain. Recently I commissioned a ceramicist to custom make for me a water fountain that runs on lithium batteries. (See photo below.) The biggest challenge was to make this water fountain double-walled and insulated so in the hot summer months, with an ice pack, I can keep water cool for the birds.

    As successful as this project was there are improvements to the design that can be made. The fountain is very heavy and being that it is handmade there were limitations to the preciseness and tolerances of the design. With 3D modeling and printing I can design a fountain in a way that is impossible to build by hand with clay. But first things first...

    There are many different types of materials I can use. I am hoping that you experts out there would suggest a material for me to use. Here are the requirements:

    1) Most importantly, the material must be inert and not leach chemicals. The water needs to stay fresh and clean and not poison the birds.
    2) The material should be somewhat heat resistant.
    3) The material should be strong like ceramic but, if possible, not as brittle as ceramic.
    4) The material should be light weight so that the finished fountain could be hung from a tree or a balcony rail.
    5) The material should be attractive, perhaps resembling stone.

    Before I model the bird fountain I need to also know, what is the largest size these printers can handle for the chosen material? Also, what are the limitations in terms of thinness and thickness for the chosen material? What 3D company should I use to print the bird fountain? If there is anything I am overlooking please let me know.

    Your help is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Jul 2014
    well if you were going to print it yourself - use pet-g.
    If using a print service - then a commercial nylon and sls (selective laser sintering) would be a good choice as that has almost no design issues.
    ie: you don't have to worry about underhangs or overhangs or supports or anything really.

    To make it look like stone - paint it :-)

  3. #3
    Thanks for the reply. No, I do not have a printer so I will need to use a service. I need to print 14" X 14" X 8". The only printer service I know of is Shapeways but I don't know if Shapeways will be the best service for my project. I am open to suggestions. I do not want to paint the finished water fountain. Paint is dangerous for birds and doesn't weather well in the elements. It's simpler and better to find a material that looks and functions great directly from the printer. Would you please send me a link to a service that uses commercial nylon and "sls"? I don't even know what sls is.
    Last edited by davidhunternyc; 03-23-2020 at 02:45 PM.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    sls (selective laser sintering)
    it uses nylon powder and a laser to create items layer by layer - similiar to fdm (fused deposition modelling/manufacturing) but as a complete layer is laid down each time (building a solid cube of powder with the sintered object inside) you have very few restrictions to what you can make - shape wise.

    shapeways use sls.

    But from a purely aesthetic viewpoint (something I rarely see the point of) your ceramic fountain will probably ALWAYS look better :-)

    lol what the hell have shapeways done to their website ?
    Absolutely impossible to find out what materials they have without either asking for a quote or uploading a model.

  5. #5
    Thank you Aardvark,

    Yes, clay is great. It's just not precise so that's why I was thinking of 3D Ceramic printing. I just don't know if it is feasible. I was checking out Nylon PA12 in grey and it looks rather attractive.

    What I'm trying to find out too is if there is a material with incredible thermal properties. Is there a way to keep water cold in a vessel on a hot summer day? Or will I have to make a double-wall vessel with insulation like I did with the ceramic fountain above?

  6. #6
    Simpler styles, such as concrete birdbaths or basic plastic basins, maybe the best choice for ease of cleaning and overall durability. Some materials, such as glazed basins or copper birdbaths, may stay naturally cleaner Official KFC Survey
    Last edited by swedisq; 03-25-2020 at 03:23 AM.

  7. #7
    Guys, please read my first post. I already have a clay bird bath with glazed basin. I want to 3D print a bird bath. Please help with recommending materials. Thank you.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    lol - now expecting people on an internet forum to actually read and comprehend your question - is being a bit unreasonable ;-)

    From an insulation point of view then a 2 part print you could fill with polystyrene would be simplest.

    I did notice that shapeways also have various binderjet machines includign the new(ish) hp one. So would be able to print in both full colour and quite finely textured surfaces.
    By creating a model with a textured surface you can easily create a stone or ceramic like appearance.
    With the hp machine you could not only have a textured surface but also full colour artistic decorations.

    Before you decide, get a quote for something of a similiar size - 'cos it won't be cheap !

  9. #9
    Yes, Aardvark, perhaps my expectations were too high. : ) Thanks for your suggestions. I will check out the binderjet hp machine at Shapeways. I have been asked about uploading a 3D model to get a quote from a couple of companies. I have not made the model yet because I don't know which material I'm going to use and I don't know how thick or thin the tolerances are. Does this seem reasonable to you? Find the material then do the 3D model? Also, I was recommended to use the following company that specializes in ceramics. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Are their printers more appropriate than the binderjet printer from Shapeways? Like I said, I don't know anything about 3D printing so I need to rely on the expertise of others.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    lol - wrong way round - create the model FIRST - always :-)

    Then find out what material and process you can actually afford. THEN modifiy it to fit the materials and print processes within your budget :-)

    The akron people are traditional manufacturing methods only and will most likely cost a lot more, as they are geared up for large numbers of units NOT a one off custom item.

    You can always just pick something similiar off thingiverse to get an initial idea.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 03-31-2020 at 10:00 AM.

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