Printing | 07 07 2021

Meet Matt, the Man Bringing Children's Dreams to Life

We have recently invited some of the top creators on our platform in order to get an insight into their experience with 3D modelling. This time we had the chance to talk to Matt Denton, better  known as mantisrobot on Threeding, Twitter and Instagram.

As a BB-8 puppeteer for film and live events, mantis robot designer and pilot, film animatronics engineer and YouTuber based in the UK, Matt has had extensive experience with hardware and software. It was no surprise that, upon registering to Threeding in early 2020, his models quickly became some of the most popular across the site. Combining ambition, many trials and a love for Lego, his creations stood out so we have invited him to answer some questions about him and his work!

Tegan, Threeding: What inspired you to begin 3D modeling/printing?

Matt: In my line of work we are essentially always making fast turn around prototypes, so any new technology that comes along that can speed up the prototype production time is always interesting! I had colleagues that had already started using 3D printers but I was holding off until the technology matured a bit. Then I met James Bruton, a fellow YouTube maker and he lent me one of his older printers. I was instantly hooked and within a month had invested in my first machine, a Lulzbot Taz 5.

Tegan, Threeding: How long have you been 3D modeling/printing and do you have any formal education related to it? 

Matt: I have been using CAD and 3D modeling for quite some time now, probably in the region of  twenty years, so I was very familiar with CAD prior to starting 3D printing. I got my first 3D printer about five years ago. Of course I had to learn some new tricks in 3D modelling that are suited to printing for example without using support structure, but I was up and running pretty fast! I have had no formal education in 3D modelling or 3D printing, however I do have an education in Electronics and Software engineering. Most of the skills I have picked up over the years are just through trial and error.

Tegan, Threeding: Do you aspire to make this a full time career (if it isn’t already) or do you keep 3D modeling as a hobby?

Matt: I do use my 3D printer within my full time career (Animatronics Engineer for Film), however, the giant scale Lego inspired models that I am known or on my YouTube channel are purely for fun and my own personal hobby. If I could make enough money doing this full time I may consider it, but for now it remains a hobby.

Tegan, Threeding: Where do you think/hope 3D modeling will go in the future? Into more daily life or kept as a niche community and why?

Matt: I think 3D printing will become accessible to everyone as the technology becomes easier and easier to use. Most of the advancements in hobby level 3D printing over the last 5 years have been isn user simplicity rather than output quality, and I think this will continue for some time.

Tegan, Threeding: What do you like about 3D modeling?

Matt: The speed at which you can test out a design. I can CAD up a part, send it to the printer and usually in less than an hour I'm trying the part out in my design. I'm an impatient person, and although people think 3D printing is slow, it's much faster than the alternatives when it comes to prototyping!
Tegan, Threeding: What are the drawbacks of 3D modeling and how do you get around them/push through them?

Matt: There are of course problems with the technology available with consumer printers, this is usually down to the material. The better the material the harder it is to print! Of course you can get really nice high end prints made by farming them out to an on-line service such as shapeways, but the hobby level desktop printer will struggle to produce engineering quality parts. Maybe this will improve in the future, but for now it's still a great way to prototype prior to getting high end parts made professionally.
Tegan, Threeding: Which model are you most proud of, how long did it take to complete and what inspired you to create it?

Matt: I think my Giant Lego bulldozer is my favorite model so far. The tracks worked so well and were a triumph of 3D printing and engineering! I can't remember how much print time was required but it was more than five weeks of continuous printing to make all the parts! However, I did have two Taz 6 printers by this point which sped things up!

Tegan, Threeding: In regards to “Stacking Blocks Giant Go-Kart - 5 x Scale!”, one of your most popular items, how did you learn to create models like this and what was your motivation?

Matt: Well I've been a fan of Lego ever since childhood, but it wasn't until I saw my friend James Bruton printing a giant scale Lego brick that I had the idea for the giant scale Go-Kart. My initial idea was to take an existing Lego kit and scale it up big enough for my 7 year old Nephew to ride! I chose a scale of 5 x larger as this was as big as I could fit on my printer bed. Unfortunately it wasn't quite big enough for my Nephew to fit on, but it was a great kit and inspired me to follow up with two more classic Lego kits, the forklift and the bulldozer, two of my favorite kits as a child. I have now started a larger Go-Kart project that is big enough for my Nephew and even me to ride, you can see it on my YT channel.

To keep up with more of mantisrobot’s amazing work consider following his Youtube, Instagram and Twitter. If you would like a specific playlist of his Lego inspired creations click here!