Andrew Sink’s home work studio resembles a sort of toy store for adults. His projects — plastic sculptures created on his kit 3D printer — sit neatly arranged on his desk. Dozens of bright orange octopuses hang from a hook; a fully functional robotic arm sits on display nearby; he even has a collection of miniature busts of his own face. And they’re eerily accurate — so much so that iPhones and other facial-recognition-equipped gadgets mistake them for the real thing.
“That’s the moment I realized how cool this was,” says Sink. “I took a picture of the bust, and Facebook asked me if I wanted to tag myself.”
Sink began his hobby about a year ago, when he bought and built his first 3D printer at the suggestion of his friends, who now run a 3D printing business based in Virginia. Since then, he says he’s devoted his time to learning the ins and outs of the printer and perfecting his craft.
The printer works by feeding a corn-based biodegradable plastic wire into a hot tip, which melts it. It then follows instructions given on a computer to slowly build the model in layers, from the ground up, until the project is complete.
Sink builds a variety of projects. Some are for fun, like the octopus refrigerator magnets, and some are long-term open-source endeavors, like the life-sized robotic arm he’s been building in stages over the last seven months. He also prints for his friends’ company, Carry the What, creating projects such as customized headphones for the unilaterally deaf.
Sink recently ordered a larger, more professional-grade printer, and says he hopes to be able to continue pursuing his hobby professionally and take on bigger projects.
“Being able to render something and see a 3D model of it on the computer, hitting a button to start and then having it appear in front of you is a really cool feeling especially with something you designed or were a part of.”