Featured Project – The Hornet Lightsaber

Hornet lightsaber render compared with printed model

Ever since we created the DIY communities, we have been blown away by all the passionate local Makers who have joined the various platforms. While talking to community members we have learnt that no matter what kind of Maker you are there is a story to tell about your journey into the world of making. In this post we will be chatting with Hylton Rodel and learn a bit about them and their awesome Hornet Lightsaber project… after all who doesn’t like lightsabers.

Hylton’s story

First off, to get the basic intro out of the way, by profession I am a scientist at the Africa Health Research Institute. I study Tuberculosis, but for a little while during the height of the pandemic, I spent some time on Covid studies. Right now, I’m focusing on building a convolutional neural network to automatically detect Tuberculosis bacteria in microscope slides.

I got started 3D modelling in the traditional sense, with a lump of physical clay. It was sometime near the end of my studies, and I was absolutely terrible at it. At the time though, it brought me some calm when things would get hectic. After a while I became frustrated with the medium, because of how slow the whole process was, and ended up abandoning it for long periods between sculpts.

What software do you use?

At some point along my clay journey, I gave Blender a try. This was a pretty revolutionary step. You just can’t beat the convenience of the almighty “undo” button. I think this must’ve been around the time of the first Covid wave. I remember because resin 3D Printers were just coming to the market in South Africa (In fact, I was waiting for my Creality LD-002R from DIYE), and the thought of being able to translate my ideas into something I can physically touch, with the convenience of creating them in a digital platform, was absolutely irresistible. And since then I’ve been a bit more consistent with my sculpting. Probably the next big development was when I tried Zbrush. Zbrush is typically better for sculpting things in a more intuitive way than Blender. I’m not throwing shade at Blender, I still love it and use it for some poly modelling and all of my renders, but Zbrush really excels at “organic” style sculpting, which is what I’m really interested in.

Oh… it’s also worth mentioning that I had a little old Wacom tablet knocking around from back in 2011. This is a crucial piece of kit for sculpting on digital platforms. But anyways… back to Zbrush. Zbrush is, hands down, my favourite sculpting software (we have yet to see what the Maxxon buyout has in store, but I guess we have little option but to hold our breath and hope for the best there). I learned mostly by doing, and watching hundreds of terabytes of YouTube videos, tutorials and sculpt time-lapse videos, with the odd anatomy course thrown in the mix. I still have a lot to learn and a lot more to sculpt before I can truly say “I’m happy” with my sculpting though. There are so many inspiring artists out there with absolutely insane skill levels. People like Raf Grassetti, Niyazi Selimoglu and Marco Plouffe produce some awe-inspiring work and are a constant motivation.

The Hornet Lightsaber

Exploded view of the Hornet Lightsaber
Digital render of the lightsaber parts.

I was watching a Marco Plouffe Twitch stream (Which you can also find on YouTube) for one of his new “Insectoid” robot series sculpts and wanted to try sculpt a little something using a couple of the techniques he mentioned. Being that his specialization is hard-surface style modelling, something like a lightsaber was a natural step to dip my toe in those waters. Plus…lightsabers are awesome.

I did not really have a dedicated “design phase” for the sculpt, I just changed/added features and details that fit with the kind of general aesthetic I was looking for. Extrude an edge here, add a bevel there etc. I did, however, know from the start that I wanted this to be 3D printed at some point, so I was conscious about trying to divide it up in a way that made structural sense and would be (relatively) easy to print when it came to it. I am eager to see how it prints. One day when I have the time, I’d also love to convert it into a torch for emergency load-shedding bad-assery.

But I digress… I was generally satisfied with the end result, and I learned a couple poly-modelling tricks along the way. Once it was completed, I looked at it and it seemed only appropriate to call it “The Hornet”. In my head there’s even an unusually loud buzzing hum emitted from the saber as it ignites, to match its namesake.

Printing the Hornet Lightsaber

When we saw Hylton’s post about the sculpture, we had to give it a try. As we intended to paint the model, we decided to use some leftover Brown and Purple PLA.  Our trusty CR-20 Pro was the printer chosen for the task. The lightsaber hilt has been split into 5 parts, top shroud, bottom shroud, emitter, power cell, and crystal lens array. This means the model is easier to print and can be printed on machines with smaller bed sizes.

Parts sliced in Cura
1.Crystal Lens Array 2.Power Cell 3.Emitter 4.Bottom Shroud 5.Top Shroud

The emitter, power cell, and crystal lens array make up the core of the hilt. When slicing the parts we rotated them to a vertical position and added supports. We recommend printing the emitter and power cell with the alignment cone touching the bed.

When printing the shrouds, we found rotating them 90 degrees and adding supports. These parts need to be slightly flexible so keep that in mind when adjusting your settings.

Before painting we lightly sanded the parts and applied a layer of primer. You may need to sand down the pegs that slot into the groves on the shrouds to get better alignment. We then sprayed the parts with Rust-Oleum 2X Paint & Primer and when that had dried we sprayed the shrouds with SprayMate Green. After leaving it to dry we used black, white, and red acrylic paint to add the details and weathered look. To keep everything together we a small amount of Sestic glue in the groves for the pegs.

Lightsaber parts before post processing and after post processing

Conclusion

We really enjoyed printing and painting the Hornet Lightsaber as well as chatting to Hylton about their story. We hope to see more awesome models from them in the future.

If you want to keep up to date with Hylton’s latest works, then you can find them on Instagram @UmberWall Studio. Looking to print your own Hornet Lightsaber? Then you want to follow this link to Hylton’s UmberWall Gumroad Store.


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