3D Prototyping with Short Run 3D


Final 3D printed boat forms for the Cape Fear Museum of History project.

One of our projects that has recently blossomed into a new collaborative and educational opportunity is the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science outdoor interactive exhibit. A durable hands-on display that describes various boat shapes along the Cape Fear River warranted a different type of prototyping and fabrication technique: the creation of custom pieces that were unique in form, resilient to the coastal weather, and numerous.

After a search of local 3D printers, we teamed up with Ricky Shannon at Short Run 3D. As we worked with Ricky, we learned several invaluable lessons that have only made us more interested in the future possibilities of 3D printing in the museum and visitor center experience. Get to know Ricky in a Q&A below:

How long have you been printing in 3D? 3 Years

How did you get into this line of work? I previously worked in the display fixture world doing custom fabrication with an extensive background in CNC machining. I enjoyed making custom parts and designs so I saved up and purchased a 3D printer, once I set it up I was hooked. A year later I was running Short Run 3D as a full time business.

Is there a specific type of printing project that you prefer to work on? I love projects where I get to both CAD design and print the parts. There is a level of satisfaction in holding something that has never been manufactured before.


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CAD drawings created from RWD construction drawings.


What is the smallest and largest piece that you are able to print? I have printed parts as small as 1/8” cubes with text on them. The largest one piece part has been an electronics box about the size of a loaf of bread.

Before working on the Cape Fear project, had you ever printed for a museum or collections-based organization? This was my first museum based project; however, I have done several educational pieces.



The additive fabrication process is shown for three different boat models.


How would the scanning/printing of an artifact/reproduction artifact work? We use a laser based 3D scanner, it looks a lot like a record player. You place the object on the turn table and it slowly rotates the object while a pair of lasers measure the variations of the surface of the object. These scans are typically require some software based touch-up and then they are ready to export as a print ready file.

Have you seen an increase in requests from institutions with reproduction artifact needs? I have recently seen an increase in educational tools, typically in the form of interactive scale models.

Besides reproduction artifacts, what are the other possible uses for 3D printing in museums? I always think one of the largest over looked areas for 3D printing is in fixturing and jigging. When dealing with custom one-off pieces/artifacts, 3D printing is perfect for making bases, supports, and custom tools/hardware for restoration.

What is the next thing that you plan to print? How long will it take? I am currently gearing up for a run of 20 highly detailed educational models, for this project I will print a series of molds and then hand cast and paint the parts as they require a wide range of material hardnesses and transparencies. A project like this will take roughly 20 hours of 3D printing to produce the molds and then an additional 40 hours of casting and hand finishing the parts.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned while printing in 3D? The most valuable thing I have learned is that 3D printing is just one of many tools to utilize in the world of custom fabrication and prototyping. It is not the end-all-be-all solution that you hear about in the news. It still takes skill and craft to utilize a wide range of fabrication tools/techniques to produce high quality functional products.

What do you hope for the future of 3D printing? I hope to see the blending of 3D (additive) manufacturing and traditional milling (subtractive) manufacturing within the same equipment and software. Each as its own strong points and weaknesses, seeing the two blended together seamlessly in the same piece of equipment would be a game changer.



A boat being “printed.”

Thank you, Ricky, for your valuable feedback. For more information about Short Run 3D‘s capabilities, be sure to check out their website!

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