Butterflies in the Park
Image - Large Love Butterfly - 3D printed plastic painted with airbrush and acrylic paints.

On June 25th, 2017 the Salisbury PFLAG organization put together the Rainbow Fun Run and Walk. For that event I designed, printed and painted a series of butterfly shapes to be worn as buttons or pins. We gave them away to the participants.

The design started as a hand drawing, which was then digitized and worked in Adobe Illustrator to get good clean vector lines. Then it was exported as an .SVG file and opened in AutoDesk Fusion 360 in order to create the 3D form.  The first draft of the butterfly was going to be static piece with no movement, but I was unimpressed with a simple extrusion so I decided to add the move-able wing element. 
After a series of failed prototypes and attempts to create the entire mechanism within the process of one single print, I had to settle for a more conventional manufacturing method of printing the move-able parts separately and assembling them by hand. The regular printing medium is a PLA plastic which is fairly rigid and durable; however for the wings I switched to the "Flexi" plastic to make it easier to pop the wings into their plastic center. One of the unfortunate side effects of the Flexi plastic is that it does not print detail very well at all. The viscosity of the heated material is too high; consequently, it causes small vertical structures like the Love lettering on the small butterfly wings to look sloppy. There was a lot of errant plastic strands caused during printing which you can see in the detail picture above. I opted to not clean those up because it added a nice effect to the painted wing.

Image - Small Love Butterfly

My wife inspired me to do this project about a month ago. The first couple weeks were spent working on designing and some hard learned lessons using the Fusion 360 software and basic mechanical engineering. Once the original set of prototypes were built and I had established my manufacturing workflow, I was able to make about 40 butterflies in the next couple of weeks. I was also able to throw in the Love design at the last minute once I perfected my process for getting a clean SVG output from the drawings. This was fun and I look forward to doing more projects like this in the future.