We recently learned about Solidoodler and maker Aleksei Sebastiani, who recently made a 3D-printed bowtie that flashes LEDs when people stand too close for comfort. After seeing his collection of Instructables under the username Grissini, we reached out to him and he was gracious enough to tell us about sharing his creations online, 3D printing and wedding decorating, and plans to flip the lawn care world upside-down.

DSCN1778 from Aleksei Sebastiani on Vimeo.

Q: When did you get your Solidoodle?
“I received my Solidoodle 2 around September 2012. It worked great out of box, but I didn’t use it a ton right of the bat the way one would play a new gaming system or something else they’ve pined after for while. I didn’t know WHAT to print. My amazing wife bought the Solidoodle for me as a 30th birthday present. Thanks again, Sweetheart!”

Do you have previous 3D-printing experience? Do you use any other 3D printers?
 “Nope. I had taken a 2D-CAD class and been to a Maker Faire and seen printers. But that’s the extent of it. I did some heavy research before deciding to ask for the Solidoodle. Pre-ordering and pre-paying for something was one of the largest leaps of faith in a company I have ever taken—one that has now rewarded me greatly.”

Q: Do you have any technical background or do you just figure things out as you go? If self-taught, what resources do you use to learn?
A: “I started studying for an EET degree at Ivy Tech a year and half ago. I’ve learned some thing from there, but mostly self-taught. I generally have some idea and then start to pursue how to get it done. InstructablesHack A Day, and Adafruit have all been great resources for my general making. Ian Johnson’s blog has been an amazing resource for getting the most out of my printer.”

Q: How long have you been tinkering/making things?
“It all really starts with Legos, doesn’t it? The realization that you can take small pieces and craft something larger and amazing. I began down the electronics road when Lady Ada got the Kinect drivers hacked. It was so balzy and well-publicized that it attracted my attention. I then found Arduino, Instructables and the rest. Once I learned that I could tinker with adult things like I once did with Legos, I was hooked. My first undertaking was a breathalyzer, Boozeduino. It took a couple of months for that one to come together.”

Q: What do you like about sharing on Instructables? How does 3D printing fit into that for you?
“I like the feedback, the attention. Getting 20k views on a project has the same emotional reaction that some people get out of a Facebook post that receives a lot of likes. It feels good. Instructables also has great contests that I’ve been fortunate enough to win prizes in. And these contests provide a nice barometer of abilities—my projects are up against MIT students and professional engineers. I love the competition.

3D printing has given me an amazing tool in my arsenal. For a project I’m working on now, a large wooden wine rack in the shape of California, I needed a way to drill holes at 30 degree angle and not mess up or chip any wood. My solution was a 3D printed drilling guide that I then lined with metal plumbing pipe. I don’t own a drill press, and I don’t know if a press would handle the size of wood I’m using, so this was my hacked solution.

My bowtie is a great example. I had this idea and concept for more than year. One day, when trolling through Thingiverse, I saw some dude’s bowtie. BAMM! ‘Now I know how I can incorporate these electronic parts into something that fits with societal convention.’ I don’t like wires or anything else that shout,’Hey, look, I’ve got electronics sewn into my jacket!’”

The Personal Space Defender. Photo courtesy of Aleksie Sebastiani.

Q: In addition to the bowtie, I also noticed your Mario Bros.-inspired planter. Also you made some neat wedding lamps. Did you design the planter yourself? Were all of these printed on your SD?
“The lamps were all printed on the SD. Ten of them in fact. I went through a kilogram of filament on these. This project really brought home and helped justify the cost and importance of the printer. Regular acrylic picture cubes would have cost more than these and been less interesting. They also wouldn’t have been purple, our wedding color.

The Mario planters are made from PVC plumbing pipe—fitting, giving their profession. Since you have reminded me of this one, I will probably remake this project using the printer.”

Q: Have you worn your bowtie out yet? Do people get the message?
“No way. Unfortunately, I don’t have many occasions to wear a bow-tie or any tie for that matter. I think people’s reactions would be more curious than threatened by this. And my wife would probably be embarrassed by the “over the top” nature of this. This project was much more of a proof of concept than anything else. Hopefully, it’ll inspire someone to make a derivative that’s better and more functional.”

Q: What do friends and family think of your creations?
 “They mostly think it’s cool and have no idea where I come up with this stuff. My wife has been amazingly supportive. My first project, Boozeduino, came about because she bought me the MQ-3 alcohol sensor from Sparkfun for Valentine’s Day. Having a supportive partner has been amazingly important, even though she doesn’t know tech or really even like technology. She gets worried that I’ll become a “Borg” when that technology comes into existence.”

Q: Do you consider yourself an inventor? What guides your choice in projects? What’s your muse?
 ”Inventor, no. More of a “masher.” I mash things together. Nothing in particular guides my projects or is my muse. I take in a lot of information from across the interwebs and then my brain transforms some of that into things that I can do or do better. I have my “Eureka!” moments and some of them I have the skills to build. Some, I have to wait and learn more.”

Q: Are you part of any local maker groups?
 “No. I would like to check out BloomingLabs in Bloomington, IN. However, it’s not very convenient being an hour away. Indy doesn’t seem to have much by itself, and I fear that having others to push me, I’d get bogged done by BSing about tech with other people. Hence, just have your own personal makerspace. The SD also kind of eliminates the need for me to join a group. And every once and a while, I’ll meet someone at school or work who has a similar interest. But they usually want to work on their projects and I want to work on mine.”

Aleksei’s personal makerspace. Photo provided by Aleksei Sebastiani.

Q: After making the world a safer place from personal-space invaders, what’s next? Do you plan to stay on this path, or something totally new? Do you have a dream project in the works?
 ”I start school on the 19th, so my time to engineer stuff will be severely limited by learning how to engineer, it’s horribly ironic.

I’ll definitely stay down this path and go further down the rabbit-hole. I have a couple of long-term projects that I need more education for. One is robotic lawn care. Mowing and, more importantly, poop-scooping. I think there is a huge market for a $300-$500 poop machine. And the mowers that I’ve seen are all large. I envision several smaller networked lawn bots taking care of the grass.

My 10-year project goal is to re-invent the trash can. Everything else in and around the house is getting smarter and improved. The lowly trash can hasn’t seen an major improvement since it went from a hole in the ground to a can with a plastic bag. We (first world nations) produce so much garbage and use things so inefficiently that I believe there is a huge chance for real change and profitability within the handling of our garbage. I see a day not too far off where my trash can will take itself out and be able to generate shopping lists and inventories based on what I have thrown away. Many large companies are looking toward the fridge, but I think they are wrong.  My Solidoodle is the only way I’ll be able to prototype and create this. No other technology will be so cheap to prototype and fail a dozen times before I get it right.”

Q: Anything else?
 ”Uh, Thanks for making such a great machine at such an affordable price! And thanks to all the super-users like Lawsy who help make the Solidoodle better and share their work so I can benefit too. I appreciate you all!”

Thanks to Aleksei for sharing with us about his various projects, experience in 3D printing, and goals for future projects. You can follow and find instructions for his oddball creations, clever mashes (Middle Eastern tacos for one) and hopefully more 3D printing projects at his Instructables page.

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