Despite its popularity 3D prints from the world of anime are few and far between, which makes superb ones like this – the Star Compass from Made in Abyss – just a little more special.
Mechanical engineering student Dylan Marcrum is the man behind this project which goes beyond being a static 1:1 decoration for your shelf or desk, and actually moves inside of a clear plastic sphere, with the main part of the print always pointing down as it’s intended to.
Marcrum tells us that the compass core was modelled in Autodesk Inventor over the course of 24 hours with 12 of those going to the bulk of the design and the other 12 needed for minor, but important, tweaks to make it look accurate.
While screenshots from the anime were used at this point, they proved to be problematic as the appearance of the compass would change slightly in different scenes.
With the model done the next challenge was making it spin freely. 3D Printed domes do exist but making one for this application wouldn’t have worked right, so a simple 7 centimetre clear Christmas ball ornament was used instead. The outer ring which allows the compass to move around also hides the seam of the ornament, further selling the illusion.
Those looking to make their own version of this project will probably find themselves printing it for around 7 hours, but Marcrum had to put much more time into it to test different versions. He tells us that he sunk around 32 hours into printing alone at this stage to make the final design perfect.
He also estimates that, for finishing work, around 10 hours are needed between the model coming off of the printer and the project being complete. This process involves dissolving the supports with isopropyl alcohol (this project was done with a resin printer) and cutting away the excess before drilling tiny holes into the rings to insert pieces of needle which act as the pivots.
After balancing everything out to make sure it was level grey primer was applied followed by Rub ‘n Buff which adds in that metallic that was needed here. After this the final, small details like the green orb were painted in by hand.
The ornament housing also needed some work to make the print fit in, which involved heating up the needles and pushing them through, creating a perfect hole that was much easier to accomplished compared to drilling them in. After some glue anchored them in place, that part was completed too.
Marcrum stresses that it is a complex build and getting the balance right can be tricky, but it can be done with some patience. Luckily he already spent all those hours nailing the design, so the rest of us can have an easier time.