On Saturday I went to the second UK Maker Faire in Newcastle. This is an event that gets together a whole lot of people in one building who have something creative and technological to show off, share or workshop. That’s a pretty broad remit; there was probably a slim majority of fun robotics projects, plus a bunch of people doing interesting things with 3D printing, a giant musical Tesla coil playing tunes using lightning – that sort of thing.
One of the things that was most interesting to me personally was a new kind of silicone putty, called Sugru. It’s being sold mainly as a way of modifying existing objects, by sticking things onto other things, adding comfortable grips and suchlike, but I’m intrigued by its sculpting potential.
It has a few things in common with epoxy putty – it sticks pretty firmly to many different surfaces, making it great for modifying existing objects; it gives you about half an hour or so of working time during which it goes from being really quite sticky to kind of stiff, then it cures fully in about 24 hours; and it comes in a range of different colours.
The big difference is that when it ‘hardens’, it stays soft and rubbery. Drop it, and it bounces. You can probably use it to erase pencil marks. That makes it more desirable and fun for certain kinds of uses – I’d rather mod delicate electronic equipment with something that bounces rather than crashing like stone, for example. Another difference is that unlike epoxy (which needs to be mixed up) it starts curing from the moment you take it out of the packet, which means you need to use a whole pack at once if you don’t want to waste any.
It’s quite like Fimo to work with, and holds details well. The surface noticeably cures a bit faster than the inside, but you don’t seem to get the kind of annoying wrinkle-prone skin you do with many air-drying modelling clays. For me the working time is plenty for most of my sculptures, though I know a lot of people take longer. The two sculptures I made held their own weight surprisingly well, sagging only a tiny bit, which is a relief after working with epoxy putty or even Fimo Soft. I only got to play with a little bit at the Faire, and it hasn’t launched commercially yet, but I’m looking forward to doing more with it. I can see a lot of interesting potential there.