Knotted Orbit

by emmett, published

Knotted Orbit by emmett Oct 23, 2014
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12355Views 2114Downloads Found in Math Art


I decided to branch out and try designing something for a full color powder printer. The STL really doesn't do it justice; if you have Windows 8.1 (or 10), you can open the 3MF with 3D Builder, which I work on.

I used NASA images: the Blue Marble for the earth, and the Hubble Deep Field for the knot. The earth is forever captured, but can roll around a knot-shaped orbit. See my video of the finished print.

One of the cool features we added to 3D Builder is "Buy Print", which allows you to make things in materials we can't manage at home. I printed this in Colorstone for $172 (I know, not as cheap as we'd like, but pretty good for a 6 inch wide piece).


This object was created with Matlab, and my .m script is in the downloads section. I generally use OpenSCAD for design, but these curvy forms are not well suited to it. Instead a made a recursive knot script, that builds a 3-1 knot around the path of a 2-3 knot, along which the earth rolls. Doing my own texture mapping was a new and interesting challenge.

The 3MF contains all the texture info and such. 3D Builder will open it (and hopefully more 3D apps soon as well). I work on this format, since STL and OBJ are somewhat lacking as 3D printing formats.

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Did you buy the printer, or use a printing service like Shapeways

I printed this today on a Zcorp Z450 at 50% scale. It has come out really nicely. The Z450 is only CMY but it did a pretty good job of black for half of it and then faded to a dark blue which actually looks really nice as it is like the earth is moving between day and night. The print is still soaking in the infiltrant and is a little sticky so I will upload a photo tomorrow.

It would be awesome if you could make the ball(s) smaller. This could be made smaller and still work.

I have windows 7

Share with textures!

The textures are in the 3MF. You can open it with 3D Builder, and hopefully more apps soon. The format is a zip archive, so if you rename it to .zip you can inspect the internals. The model file is XML and the textures are jpegs, so it's actually pretty simple to parse. All the 3MF documentation is in our free 3D Print SDK.

I printed it with supports on my FlashForge machine. It took a little cleaning and sanding but it printed and works great. I created more spheres just a tad bigger becuase the original one was small enough to fall out with the slightest pressure. My students love it.

I kinda wanna try printing it on an FDM machine.. lol

Do it! I imagine it'll be a long battle with support removal, but it should be possible.

I think PVA sticks to PLA and vise versa. Probably can utilize my Kraken to its potential a bit more than I have.

Love the work and despise Windows 8.x/10. Fact is Microsoft is about to lose me forever and I have used Windows since W95b back in 1996. I don't care who they rip off to implement 3d stuff in it they are just going in a direction with Windows I refuse to go (I don't do tablets nor Cell Phones so that leaves out Windows these days).

Anyway good work and 172 dollars? WOW.

Thanks :). I've only worked at Microsoft a little over a year, and I wouldn't consider myself a fanboy (I currently run Windows 10 on my Macbook Pro). This is just my own opinion, not necessarily that of MS, but I'm aware of the problems and we're doing a lot of good work to correct. Check out Windows 10; I was pleasantly surprised, and you might be too, especially once we officially ship.

Any hey, we're the first (and only) OS with native 3D printing support, for what that's worth.

luckily there are alternatives