For 3D printing anything of relative complexity it’s generally assumed that you’ll need to print several smaller parts and then spend time joining them together. With exceptions, this usually makes the process easier on smaller machines and / or allows for greater complexity compared to single piece prints.
Flying in the face of all of that is maker Talmage Madsen, who has recreated Optimus Prime – complete with transforming mechanics – as a single piece 3D print.
Madsen tells us that the model for this print was designed in Autodesk Inventor over the course of around 18 hours, though this doesn’t include the extra time taken to plan everything out on paper first.
Those 18 hours were for Optimus Prime along, with the trailer needing a further 4 hours to model.
Printing took a total of 10 hours with about 6.5 for Optimus Prime and 3.5 for the trailer with no supports needed.
Thanks to the clever design work here no assembly or finishing work was required once the printing was over. As soon as the plastic was removed from the heat bed it could be transformed using a few key movements that you can see in the short gif below.
The final model is 12.5 centimetres tall and 8 centimetres wide when in robot mode. When transformed with the trailer attached the print grows to 15 centimetres long and 7 centimetres tall.
Those who prefer the Decepticons will be happy to know that a version of Megatron will be worked on, but it will transform into a tank despite being based on the G1 designs.
While this grey version of the print works as intended and looks great as is, it would be a crime to see Optimus Prime without the classic red and blue colour scheme.
While the original design for this could be painted (apparently paint pens have been considered to do just that) another member of the maker community came in with a different idea.
Colin Smith took Madsen’s files and remixed them so it could still be printed in one piece, but multiple colours of filament could be used.
Smith says that, to make these changes to the model, he used Meshmixer and was able to complete it in just 4 hours.
This process involved highlighting and then splitting off parts of the prints according to their colour.
This version did require some soluble supports to make certain parts stick, but these were easily removed by hand and didn’t require dissolving them.
Printing took 16 hours on an original Prusa MK3 with the multi-material upgrade (MMU2) and used fiver different colours of filament.
The final product, which you can see in the gallery below, is also a slightly different size standing 12.7 centimetres tall in robot mode and 11.43 centimetres long when turned back into a truck.
Oh, and there’s definitely some joke to be made here about the premise of this project and the phrase “’til all are one”, but we’ll leave that to someone else.