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Thoughts on 3D Printing

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It seems incredible to me that I’m looking at a bronze sculpture of YodaBuddha created  by 3D printing. I conceived the idea in the morning, sculpted it in ZBrush, and uploaded the file to Shapeways in the afternoon.

The “buzz” about 3D printing has been on the technology, the printers themselves, and those start-up companies like Makerbot and Formlabs who have entered the hardware market in the last few years. The story of the individual designer with his home factory creating limited edition or bespoke items is just beginning.

From a designer’s perspective, it is very empowering to be able to go directly from an idea to a manufactured product–No set up fees, tooling costs, or minimum quantities. While it is possible that the technology could bring some manufacturing back to the US from Asia, I think that something like a home-factory craft business may emerge here.

If you have a great product idea, it should be possible to produce it directly with 3D printing. What comes to mind are short-run items like garage kits, designer toys, miniatures, collectibles. The kind of art objects that are done with silicon molds and casting resins. The same companies doing that type of product now are also places that might provide some freelance opportunities… Artistry and skill come with years of practice. The ubiquity of 3D printers doesn’t change that, but it does create a market for designers who can turn an idea into a printable file.

I was (like many artists, I’m sure) eagerly reading the brochures and specs of the latest machines–excited by the prospect of getting my own. I was about ready to place an order for the Form1+ when a news article gave me pause…Auto Desk announced their intentions to enter into this marketplace as well… Now, they create great tools–don’t get me wrong–but the majority of folks buying their content creation tools are dreaming of being artists and animators.  The spectacular Hollywood animated features and the blockbuster visual effects have them inspired–but not everyone is going to end up with a job at Pixar… Similarly, people are excited by the technology of 3D printing and rushing to get one of their own–many inspired by remarkable artwork that they see posted on ZBrushCentral –as though the right software and the right magic box is going to turn them into the next Michelangelo…Rather than being fleeced, those artists might be better served by a modest investment in some watercolors and a box of Sculpy….

Keeping this in mind, I thought I better figure out what I am going to make and who I’m going to sell it to before I plunk down the money for my own printer. Our public library has Makerbot Replicators that you can use if you have a library card ($50/year if you live outside the city), and Shapeways has lots of material choices that I can experiment with for now….

Edit:
After all of that, I finally broke down and bought an awesome Printerbot Simple Metal. for $599– It was in the top 4 in Make Magazines 3D Printer shootout!

 

3D Print your own TAR of Zandoria Collectible!

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Download and 3D print your own TAR of Zandoria collectible statue! Print it and put it on your desk. Print it and give it as a gift. Take a picture and share it! Every time someone sees this statue, they are going to ask “What IS that!?”

That is going to help spread awareness of this project, and the cost of the .stl will help me keep the lights on 😉

Pierre at Cults3D invited me to upload  my sculptures to their new 3D model marketplace where people can buy print-ready models to build on their 3D printers. It seems like a great idea–I imagine that there are only so many Stanford bunnies and Yoda heads that a person needs… As 3D printers become ubiquitous there is a need for high quality sculpts to fill the build platforms.

I foresee that there is going to be a market for commission work too, so if you need a little help bringing your idea to life, please give me a shout. Here it is on Thingiverse

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Switching to Zbrush

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I’ve been doing some 3D printing at work using a Makerbot Replicator 2 and I’m really excited by the technology. The ability for an artist or designer to create something digitally and then turn it into an actual object is a paradigm shift in manufacturing. It is something that is on my mind every day…

Zbrush is the perfect tool for this, so I’ve decided that it is something that I need to master. I exported my Animation:Master model of TAR as an .obj as well as his shield and club and, using Dynamesh, merged them into one Ztool. Then I sculpted some more detail into the body (I’m not finished yet, this is only a couple of hours work…).

There are some really cool features in this program that make me think that it might be easier to create characters from scratch in Zbrush and then export to an animation program. A lot of studios use Zbrush, so might be a better workflow for doing freelance too.

[Edit] Here is what it looks like in makerware

Tar_ThingHere is the link to the “thing” file on Thingiverse–download it and print it!
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:158321