"The Zahir" 3D-Printed Sculptural Experiment 2014

Another blast from the past that I recently re-archived…this was an arty 3D-print-from-a-Rhino-model experiment I undertook in 2014.

MakerBot had opened a “boutique” in a nearby shopping district, so I purchased one of their machines for my nascent design office. I decided to push its capabilities with a semi-sculptural project that would involve precisely assembling the printed pieces with salvaged cherry wood (cut-up samples from an architecture project) and ordinary steel fasteners. One of the few courses I had enjoyed, back in 2005 in my last semester at architecture school, had concerned itself with the role of “craft” in computer-driven design and fabrication, and we students briefly were given access to an industrial 3D printer. Now, in theory I could explore the possibilities in my home office (which at the time was essentially the dining room table, once the kids and spouse had left for school and work for the day). Yay!


So this piece was modeled in then-current Rhino 5. I made a couple of over-the-top renderings (see above), cut the cherry with a table saw on the roof deck of my townhouse (no doubt truly annoying my neighbors) and set the Makerbot to print the ten STL files generated from the Rhino model. It’s a semi-procedural design based on projections of pairs of faces from an icosahedron onto the surface of an enclosing sphere, and I’ve always referred to it as “The Zahir”, after the object of fatally overwhelming fascination in the 1949 story by Jorge Luis Borges of the same title.

It wasn’t a nice experience: the printing was painfully, day-long slow (I was maxing out the volumetric limits and quality settings of the printer), several prints went awry spectacularly midway through, the machine’s printhead failed (and had to be replaced at full price!), and finally there were inconsistencies in color and texture on the pieces that were “successfully” printed (which led me to spray them with flat acrylic paint using an airbrush). “Craft” indeed!

But in the end I did produce something that approximates what I originally rendered. To prevent the cats from messing with it, I keep it in the back of a large cabinet, where it occasionally startles me when I am rooting about there for camping supplies or old watch straps.

And that’s it. I never made any other 3D-printed objects like this, although I did produce some more designs for follow-up experiments. There just never seemed to be any call for this sort of thing in my practice, such as it was. I still have the printer, but it is probably no longer functional all these years later.


Can I recommend selling your MakerBot and buying a Bambu Labs P1P and some of their matte filaments? I have been blown away by how fast, reliable and great quality the prints are!

Another great project, I really like your style!

1 Like

Thanks, I will look into that.

I have seen this wonderful design before when I was looking into my aleph

1 Like

Be careful about looking into alephs. It can be habit forming.


What a great object, thanks for sharing.

1 Like