This is a 3D printed plastic stamp with three interchangeable faces, designed to be kept behind the bar and used to leave helpful messages on the foreheads of passed-out drunkards. It was constructed in Autodesk 123D and printed using Ponoko.
How does it work? Read on for a thrilling example scenario!
(Alternatively, skip to Step 10 to find out how I made it.)
Step 1: A text-based adventure in 3D printing and alcoholism
You wake up slowly. Your head is pounding. Your mouth feels like an old shoe box in which a diseased hedgehog has chosen to hibernate. You are lying, fully clothed, on the floor beside a bed. You cannot remember how you got here. On the bedside table is half a glass of water which has been sitting there for at least a month.
You try to get up, but your stomach climbs up your throat and tries to smother your brain. You lie back down.
>Drink the water.
You are too far away from the water and you lack the coordination required to crawl.
You doze off again, in the hope that sleep will somehow solve your predicament. You wake some time later. Your head still aches. The hedgehog in your mouth has been joined by its unruly, even less healthy family.
>Remove the hedgehog.
The hedgehog is not a literal hedgehog. It began as a simile then became a metaphor while you were napping. It represents dehydration and regret.
You lurch to your feet and, after swaying on the spot for over a minute, you manage to remain upright. After another minute, so does the room.
> Drink the water.
You drink the stale water. It feels pure and cleansing. There is not enough of it.
>Go to the bathroom.
You stagger to the bathroom. There is a sink, a mirror, a toothbrush and a toilet which has been soiled in an unholy manner.
>Use the sink.
You put your lips over the faucet and fumble for the taps. The water is warm, but still good. You drink until you are dizzy. The vile taste in your mouth remains.
>Brush your teeth.
You squeeze toothpaste along the entire length of the toothbrush and, on your third attempt, insert the head of the brush into your mouth. You brush gingerly. With nothing better to occupy your mind for two minutes, you try to make sense of what happened last night. You draw blanks. You glance in the mirror. A message is printed on your forehead.
>Read the message.
Step 2: You read the message
The message, which is printed in reverse so that it is legible in the mirror, reads as follows:
Your car keys are at Penfold's Bar
Last night starts to shift into focus.
Step 3: It all started with a quick drink after work
It seemed like a sensible idea at the time. It was a Friday evening. You had nothing better to do. Neither did your colleague. After a few drinks you discovered that you were a fascinating conversationalist. You decided to have a few more.
Step 4: You experienced your typical four stages of drunkenness
Geniality. Confusion. Remorse. Unconsciousness.
Step 5: You found a place to sleep
The bartender was not impressed to see you passed out on her bar. She had seen your type too many times before.
Step 6: Safety first
The bartender confiscated your car keys before you were awake enough to protest.
Step 7: An exercise in branding
From behind the bar, the bartender retrieved a customized stamp and an ink pad. Without waking you, she left a message on your forehead.
Step 8: Somehow you made it home
Your colleague kindly accepted your offer of an evening stroll back to your house. Fortunately, he knew the way...
Step 9: And here you are...
You find yourself staring at a message printed on your own forehead. It's part advertisement, part warning label, part public health message. You swear to yourself that you'll never drink to excess again.
At least now you know where your keys are.
Step 10: How it was made
I started by designing my three stamps in Autodesk 123D (beta). In case you're unfamiliar with 123D, it's a piece of freely available 3D modelling software which aims to get the general public engaged in 3D design and fabrication. Like many 3D design tools, it's a bit daunting to use at first, but far less so than most of the alternatives. It's got a lot of oomph hidden under a very approachable exterior, so it's pretty darn nifty if you're new to 3D modelling. I recommend having a play with it. OK, sales pitch over.
My three stamp designs were:
Step 11: Positioning the text on the stamps
Since Autodesk 123D is geared toward fabrication, it lets you assign sizes to whatever you're modelling right from the outset. After some investigative phrenology to find the size of various coworkers' foreheads, I decided that a 3.5" x 2" (i.e. business card size) stamp would be ideal.
Once I'd positioned the text, I used the Extrude tool to turn the 2D outlines into 3D solids.
Step 12: Designing the handle
The handle of the stamp was designed to resemble a beer bottle standing on a puddle of spilled beer. The bottle was made using the Revolve tool, which spins a 2D outline around a single axis to create a 3D object, much like using a lathe. The puddle was made by drawing an irregular curve, Extruding it to create a 3D prism, then using the Chamfer tool to soften the sharp edges.
I made the tabs on the rear of the stamp face by Revolving a 2D outline through only 90 degrees, then duplicating it.
To make everything into a single object, I glued it all together with the Combine tool.
Step 13: The finished 3D models
After a bit of tinkering, I was left with four 3D models: one stamp handle and three stamp faces.
I exported each of these as a different .stl file, making sure that each file contained only a single component (for the purposes of fabrication, most 3D printing companies require that each file contain only a single object).
Note that the stamp faces were designed so that they would print in reverse, thus becoming legible when read in a mirror.
Step 14: Sending the files to Ponoko
I then uploaded the finished files to Ponoko.com, a wonderful website that specializes in 3D printing and laser cutting. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, we live in the future now. We just have to think of things, draw them on computers, press some buttons and then they will arrive as actual physical objects in the mail within a week. I'm still amazed by it.
While I needed the stamp faces to be printed in high resolution, I was not so concerned about the detail on the handle. I therefore opted for Superfine Plastic as my face material and the cheaper Durable Gloss Plastic as my handle material.
I'd like take a moment here to praise the level of customer service I received from Ponoko. I was aware that if I made parts of my 3D model too thin there might be problems with the printing process, but I didn't pay too close attention to the exact dimensions of my stamps. Within 24 hours, I received an email from the customer support team at Ponoko not only warning me that my stamp might print improperly, but also asking if I'd intentionally printed my stamps so that they would print in reverse. The email was accompanied by detailed diagrams showing the exact points of potential weakness within my models. Color me impressed.
Step 15: The finished item
About a week later, my finished models arrived in the mail.
Step 16: The faces
The three faces turned out beautifully. All of the raised text was perfectly legible and it was just rough enough to hold ink beautifully when pressed against an ink pad.
Step 17: The attachment points
Here you can see the tabs on each interchangeable face that slot into the stamp's handle.
Step 18: Future potential...
I think the foreheads of the inebriated are a large untapped reserve of printing space, whether for useful warning messages or private advertising campaigns. I imagine a golden future in which nobody drives home intoxicated and every drunkard wakes up with something entertaining written on his or her forehead.