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3D Printed Stamp Allows You to Put Harriet Tubman on Your $20 Bills

Picture of Tyler Koslow
by Tyler Koslow
Oct 20, 2017

Hackday’s Phillip Torrone and Adafruit’s Limor Fried create 3D printed Harriet Tubman stamp to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. 

During Barack Obama’s stint in the White House, the former president proposed that former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman should replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Although the suggestion was approved by the government, the new currency isn’t scheduled to come out in 2020. In fact, since Donald Trump has taken office, his treasury department has put the move on the back-burner, leaving some to wonder if Tubman will ever make her way onto U.S. bank notes.

But for those who are eager to replace Jackson–the seventh U.S. president and slave owner–with a hero like Tubman on the $20 can now do so with a 3D printer and some other materials. Phillip Torrone, the founder of Hackaday, and Limor Fried, an engineer and electronics hobbyist who founded Adafruit Industries, decided to take matters into their own hands and change their bills with a 3D printable Harriet Tubman stamp.

The maker-savvy pair recently released a tutorial detailing how to create stamps with a 3D printed mold, using Harriet Tubman (and also Steve Jobs) as their model of choice.

From Jackson to Tubman: How to Create Stamps with 3D Printable Molds

To create the 3D printed stamp mold, you’ll need a 3D printer, a scale, flush cutters, Play-Doh, and amazing mold putty. Torrone and Fried walk you through the entire process, from designing the mold to assembling your stamp. First, they suggest using a a lithophane app to convert the gray scale image of choice into the model. To fit the dollar note, the image has to be scaled to 35mm x 45mm. The tutorial also goes into constructing negative parts for the mold, as well as reversing the image to provide the correct orientation.

After creating the stamp walls and 3D printed mold, Play-Doh and putty is used to make the actual stamp. Finally, adhere the stamp to a handle and test it out with some ink before reinventing your dollar notes.

While plain PLA can be used for more simple stamps by orienting the design flat on the print bed, more complex designs with a silicone/rubber mold from a 3D printed negative. Printing with a resolution in the x-y-plane of 12.5 micrometer, along with a layer height of about 0.15 mm, will give you ideal details for the mold.

For those concerned about defacing the American currency, there’s isn’t much to fear. According to federal law, you’re only prohibited from altering money “with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued,” meaning the aim would be to take it out of circulation. With the Harriet Tubman stamp, however, the goal seems to be the exact opposite. By sharing this stamp project across the interweb, Fried and Tubman are looking to spread awareness for the postponed movement to replace the face of a controversial man with a civil rights icon.

“If you see these faces every day, they gain power. They’re on the most powerful currency in the world. It’s hard to tell some girl, ‘Hey, you can grow up to be a founding father.’ No, you can’t. But you can learn about Sally Ride or Harriet Tubman and be like, ‘This person had strength in adversity and was able to do something amazing,” says Fried.

If you’re interested in partaking in this project, take a look at the comprehensive tutorial on the Adafruit website.

Source: Adafruit/ Wired

License: The text of "3D Printed Stamp Allows You to Put Harriet Tubman on Your $20 Bills" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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