It has been an incredible year in the world of 3D printing and the various technologies supporting it. It is now obvious to anybody paying attention that the idea of additive manufacturing is bound to have a broad-sweeping range of applications in nearly every market in the years to come. Companies like Stratasys, 3D Systems, and MakerBot are making headlines daily and experiencing explosive growth. Many people are still left wondering though, “What does this whole 3D printing thing have to do with ME?” Despite the rocketing growth of the 3D industry, the only groups benefiting from this wave – in the eyes of consumers – are the extreme hobbyists and industry.
How does 3D Printing affect me?
Having been obsessively following the growing movement over the past few years, I have been left wondering the same things myself. I have seen industry benefiting greatly from the implementation of rapid-prototyping and inexpensive custom parts; and I have cheered on the developing RepRap community as the barriers to high quality 3D printing at home have fallen rapidly. However, my sense of euphoria at owning my very own 3D printer faded fairly quickly as I realized after printing a backlog of “Things” I had saved up, “I really don’t know what to do next.”
The regrets of having not pursued an engineering degree piled up quickly as I thought of item after item that I could create if I had necessary industrial design experience. My printer was there, ready to bend the world to my will and create vast piles of… whatever. However, I remained relatively powerless to do much beyond customize a phone case or print clever doodads from Thingiverse. Don’t get me wrong: I think Thingiverse is an amazing community, and the idea of open-source object creation is an inspiring foretelling of what is to come. I just know that most people are not going to see the relevance of this kind of movement until they experience a direct, tangible reflection of 3D printing capabilities in their own lives.
3D Printing as a new form of media
Throughout the past two centuries, no technology has had a more profound impact on one’s ability to relate to past events and people than photography (and subsequently video). There is something immensely powerful about an image of one’s grandparents in their youth, or one’s child upon a landmark event in their past. We tend to cherish these images above many other possessions. My wife is still pregnant with our first child; yet the blurred, imprecise sonogram images of our child’s face illicit a very real emotional connection for me that none of the data and conversations about her can. There is a reason Facebook has become the most successful website of all time: its billions of stored images tell the many stories of the lives of it’s members. Stories which often cannot be replaced by words or fading memories.
As powerful as pictures are, they are still only 2 dimensions. They are not something we can hold in our hands and really interact with. Images can be printed and framed, but they still do not take up real, physical space that we share.
For millennia, one of greatest markers of accomplishment in somebody’s life has been the commissioning of a statue of their likeness. This timeless act has always been reserved for only those of the highest affluence and fame; and these works of art have stood as the keystone of much of art history and the public’s memory if their subjects. Even today, flooded with millions of images of oneself, an influential person will typically consider it a high honor to have a statue made in their likeness; and even a poorly depicted statue of a person will often proudly mark the focal point of public spaces. A statue, sometimes even far more poorly detailed than images of a subject, can impress upon a viewer a much more lasting impact and a greater impression of the “presence” of the statued than any image could.
As I’ve watched the development of 3D printing as a technology, I have realized the immense potential it has to enable the replication of not just objects and ideas, but people and pets and other items that change and perish. The primary value proposition of a 3D printer is its ability to make accessible the uniqueness of an object. What is more unique and precious than the features of a loved one? Anybody who has lost somebody special can tell you that the pictures, the videos, and the memories of that person become far more valuable than ever imagined when they’re gone. As much as I love the old photographs of my grandfather in his 20s or my beloved childhood dog when he was still alive; I can’t imagine how neat it would be to have a vibrant, lifelike statue of them.
To get to the point: I believe that 3D printing has the potential to bring the previously unattainable world of statues and figurines to any who would like it; not just those in the upper-echelons. Our team has been laboring tirelessly for months to make this idea a reality. It is surprisingly difficult to convert a living subject into a usable digital model, and our learning curve has been rather large. Fortunately we have a fantastic network of support and a great community of others who share our dreams. Now, with our state of the art full-surround capture studio, we are ready to begin helping others share a tangible piece of themselves, their loved one, their pet, and many other things.
With our full-color scale replicas of any subject, we are able to recreate almost anything you can dream of for you to share with friends and family in a truly unique and impressive way. Our models are surprisingly vibrant and lifelike and can convey far more than any photo.
I feel that this post is probably scaling beyond anything that most people would read, so I’ll wrap it up for now. As you can probably tell; I am quite excited about the potential we have to offer something unique to our community. Soon, I will post more about what exactly we are doing and how the process looks. Please stay tuned…