Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Printing your own 3D objects

Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far from here, printing a 3D object was as close to magic to a regular 3D CG nerd as levitation is to elephants. We were standing in awe at SIGGRAPH 2004 or similar trade shows looking at the (Stratasys) alchemical process taking place behind the glass of a pricey machine who was able to substantiate the content of an .stl file into a plastic low definition sculpture.

In the last years companies such as Shapeways and Crystalline3D are gathering data on the cloud, offering an 3D Etsy flavored consumer experience where designers and creators can afford and offer the fruit of their imagination to the public as a glorious and small 3D object made of many different substances and nowadays it's even possible in full to have a figurine in full colours.

This year, as 3D TVs and Avatar's blue giants get crowds of people to stand in theaters wearing goggles for three hours in exchange of a great experience and a mild headache, it was expected to see 3D printing getting closer to our desktop.
Sure it's not yet a StarTrek replicator yet, but it's quite a treat to think that soon everyone able to use Maya, ZBrush, SketchUp or even the great and free Blender software to create 3D objects out of their brain cells for less than $1K:

And with some patience, a bit of soldering and a bunch of parts from MakerBot they might be able to share it with others on Thingiverse. The wealthier can also decide to spend some $15K for a soon available HP 3D printer.
Behold! in a few years we might be able to print human size objects to populate our apartments and gardens. What is even better is that we might be able to have these sculptures to react to music or interact with visitors through opensource software out of the Arduino (Singuino in this case) genius boards.

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