Researchers Can Now Create 3D-Printed (Plastic) Hair

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have created a system to put realistic-looking plastic hair on 3D printed objects. While this doesn’t help the follicularly challenged humans among us it does allow you to add cute hairdos to 3D printed characters and even simulate hard growth on living things.

The system uses a standard 3D printer with special programming that extrudes a little plastic and then pulls it up like a hit glue gun. The hair can be placed randomly on a surface or in rows and it can be brushed and cut.

The researchers found that it was difficult to quickly pull the extruding plastic away from the object using just the hot PLA extruder. Instead they decided to move the entire plate sideways, thereby pulling the plastic away from the surface. “Though the print head can’t move up rapidly, both it and the print bed that holds the work in progress can move rapidly from side to side,” the researchers said. “By applying the molten material and then moving the print head and the bed sideways, they found they could create the hair-like strands they wanted.”

“You just squirt a little bit of material and pull away,” said Gierad Laput, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “It’s a very simple idea, really.”

You can read more about the project here but rest assured this technique will soon enter my repertoire of 3D printing tricks in order to finally 3D print a life-sized and hairy Burt Reynolds in blue plastic.