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Staff Spotlight: 3D modeling is a homecoming for Hudson

photo of Darin showing off his 3D house

Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again. But, if you’re Darin Hudson, you can bring home to you — at least, a smaller version of it.

Through the marvel of 3D printing, Darin has re-created his boyhood home in 0.0235 scale.

“Houses aren’t forever,” Darin noted. The home where he grew up still stands in Gothenburg, but none of his family live there anymore.

To re-create it, he began by scanning photos of the house from his childhood into the SketchUp 3D modeling program. He took some new photos “to try and fill in” and added information from a floor plan included with a real estate listing.

“That helped a lot,” he said.

The computer model was then “cut” into horizontal slices, which were filled with plastic filament through fused deposition modeling (FDM). In the FDM process, the solid filament is melted as it fuses to the previous layers.

“The printer knows the space it needs to fill in for each layer,” said Darin, who works in web programming and technical support for IdeaBank.

From prototype to final design

closeup photo of 3D houseTo test his design, he made a smaller, solid prototype.

“You can have errors in your 3D model that can mess up how it prints,” he explained.

The final version comprises 37 printed pieces and four colored filaments. Portions of the roof open up, and the porch roof has a drawer that slides out.

Darin spent two to three years on the model, working out details such as how the roof sections would open without bumping into each other.

“There were times I would take six months off from working on it,” he said.

The finished product is not exactly the house he knew or the one that exists today.

“It is an idealized view of how it was back then,” Darin said. For instance, the house has gone through a number of paint schemes, and his model probably has more shutters than his boyhood home did.

“I don’t think it has any shutters on it now,” he said.

Down another creative alley

Darin has also used 3D modeling in another creative endeavor — melting aluminum. As a youngster, he made a rowboat-shaped paperweight by carving it from wax, making a mold of the shape and casting the final product from his father’s melted bullet reloading lead.

“I like to drive down alleys to see if anything has been put out,” Darin said, explaining how he found a discarded propane tank that he made into a melting furnace.

First, he filled the tank with water to force out any residual propane, and then he cut the top off with a grinder.

In SketchUp, he modeled the cavity where the crucible would sit and the opening where the fuel line would enter. He lined the inside of the tank with a mixture of refractory cement and perlite to hold the heat, and welded on a hinge for the lid and a handle.

Fired by propane, the furnace gets hot enough in a half-hour to melt aluminum. He’s had his eye on an art deco vase design that he hopes to make from melted recycled aluminum.

“I needed a place to put my change,” he said.

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