Sharon Showalter is a creative technologist at SaatchiNY. Below are some of her thoughts on the trending art of 3D printing, who’s doing it, and what you should know.
3D printing is a process often used for prototyping that creates an object from a 3D file. Layers of a solid material are applied on top of one another to create the object. For the past few years 3D printing has been bubbling up internationally, with tech industry bloggers covering it more and more frequently. The quality and cost of printers has been improving, MakerBot’s Cupcake starts at only $900. In 2011, it appears that 3D printing will reach its tipping point.
2011 kicked off with two wonderfully exciting demonstrations of 3D printing. In January, Karl D.D. Willis created Fabricate Yourself, a gigantic jigsaw puzzle at the Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction conference. Conference attendees’ 3D figures were captured using a hacked Xbox Kinect and open FrameWorks. Their 3D representations were displayed in on screen in real-time. Interlocking dovetail joints were added to the edges of a 3x3cm square along with their 3D image. Then their personal puzzle pieces were printed using an on-site 3D printer.
In the same month, we saw blablabLAB bring a similar idea to the streets of Barcelona with Be Your Own Souvenir. For two weekends their installation produced 3D toy-soldier-like figurines of tourists and citizens of Barcelona. Again, they used the Kinect, but they stepped up the game and created in-the-round representations by utilizing 3 Kinects at the same time.
SHAPEWAYS & SCULPTEO
For the past few years we’ve seen an explosion in print-on-demand services combined with user populated online stores like Lulu for books and CafePress for t-shirts, mugs and tote bags. With 3D printing, we have Shapeways and Sculpteo; you can upload your own 3D designs, choose from plastic, stainless steel or glass materials and have your custom object delivered in as little as 15 days. You can make your designs available for others to purchase as well. At Shapeways you can turn a hand-drawn sketch into jewelry or customize a ring to hold a personalized Braille message. At Sculpteo, you can order your own customized 3D figurine by simply uploading two images of your face.
It is exciting to think about the changes 3D printing will bring to the future. It opens opportunities in relation to experience-based advertising initiatives, and it is a potential game-changer in relation to the manufacturing and distribution of goods.