Debutante, a large scale 3D printed translucent outdoor sculpture - Kevin CaronFinally, 3D printing can go outside to play.

Of course, it’s been possible to 3D print outdoor sculpture for a while, but we’re talking high-end, hundreds of thousands of dollars possible. For mere mortals like me, though, being able to 3D print sculptures that can go outside has always been a holy grail.

That’s because PLA, which offers a near rainbow of translucent choices, does not like ultraviolet light. I’ve been asked many times if my translucent 3D-printed sculpture can go outside.

You can put a PLA sculpture in a window without a problem, but direct sunlight turns anything 3D printed in PLA to a floppy form, so putting it outside is problematic. I learned this personally when I took one of my 3D-printed Farkle boards outside and realized I could see my fingerprints in the surface when I picked it up, and the whole thing started to droop like a warm marshmallow.

Over the last 10 years of 3D printing I’ve seen a lot of changes, and being able to create sculptures that can go outside – especially translucent ones – is one of the biggest.

I’m not doing it with PLA, though, but with a commercial product called Ryno.

The company where I get a lot of my filament including Ryno, describes it this way:

MatterHackers PRO Series Ryno 3D printing filament is a professional level copolyester perfect for strong, functional prototypes. Capable of yielding clean, durable, and complex prints, PRO Series Ryno is formulated to have superior bridging properties and temperature and chemical resistance. Excellent for industrial modeling, end-use parts, tooling, and more, Ryno’s versatility and ease-of-use make it a solid choice for not only professional printing, but everyday projects as well.”

So far, it only comes in black, gray and – here’s where I light up – translucent.

I couldn’t wait to see what a large, translucent sculpture would look like in natural sunlight! So even though this filament is quite a bit more expensive than most, I couldn’t resist.

The result: 6-foot-tall Debutante (above, right). I printed it on my 8-foot-tall Cerebus 3D Gigante printer in 2 parts, then joined them and disguised the joint with some fake pearls, giving this sculpture her elegant edge.

Detail of Debutante, a large-scale 3D printed sculpture - Kevin CaronFor 6 months, I placed the sculpture in my backyard, where Debutante got plenty of sun. Arizona sun definitely exacts a serious test – even car companies test their paint jobs here. Debutante didn’t blink an eye.

The sculpture was then chosen to be displayed near the entrance of Phoenix’s Shemer Art Center, which is about 6 miles from my house, so it’s easy for me to drop by.

Everything went fine, until Debutante’s pearls, which I bought off the rack at Michael’s, started popping off. Apparently the glue holding them onto the backing was not rated for outdoors.

Back to the drawing board. Since the Ryno material was holding up fine, I played around with a couple of different designs using it to replace the pearls.

The result is an equally elegant sash (right) that has, so far, held up beautifully. I love how the light filters through the translucent material, providing “simply complex” detail to this sculpture.

So welcome outside, 3D printing! It’s beautiful out here.