23 March 2008

Ed Fries and I quoted in the same article

A month or so ago I spoke to a reporter from Computerworld about low-cost 3D printing and the Desktop Factory printer. The article has now shown up in the online version of their New Zealand edition. (Update: it's on their US edition too. Must be a dateline thing that made it hit NZ first.)

I love the quote from Ed Fries from FigurePrints regarding home 3D printing:

"When you have children, an amazing amount of plastic crap comes into the house every day, and you might as well download it from the internet," he says.

Yeah, but how do you print out the Happy Meal?

I wasn't as thrilled with my quote, which made me sound more negative about the Desktop Factory printer than I am. If I really said "In terms of accuracy they have some work to do" I'm sure I meant "resolution" not "accuracy", and I'm pretty sure it was in the context of how well the Desktop Factory printer stacked up to the other technologies we use at Art Center, i.e., ZCorp and FDM. It is true they have some work to do, and I'm glad to report a lot of work is going on there. The Desktop Factory printer is not going to be competitive in the near term with a $25,000 machine, but for what it's supposed to do it has the potential to be amazing.

Now if I can figure out a way to wrangle a trip to New Zealand out of this.

21 March 2008

Interesting Interview - FigurePrints

From WoW Insider - an interesting interview with the founder of FigurePrints - the company that uses 3D printers to print World of Warcraft characters. Among the many intriguing comments is their description of the custom software they developed to convert a 3D character in the game into a format that can be successfully printed:

I worked on this with the help of another guy kind of just doing some of the business stuff with me for a few months, and we pretty quickly realized that we were over our heads just from a 3D art perspective. We were having lots of issues with the printer trying to print the models that I was pulling out. Because models by default-something that’s created for a game just really isn’t printable. We needed to do a lot of stuff to change the models and make it into something that you’d want to have printed. So I came up with a 3D artist I knew, who worked on Flight Simulator and came from kind of a CAD background, Rick Welsh. He started to create this giant script in 3D Studio Max that takes the output out of Model Viewer and massages it. The script now is about 10,000 lines, and it automatically takes characters and does all the changes that need to be made to make them printable. For example it smoothes them, makes them much higher poly, so that they’re much smoother. Something like a cloak in game is infinitely thin, so the script has to extrude it. The models aren’t what’s called “watertight,” so they have to be sealed-if they have holes in them it confuses the printers. Stuff like hair is given transparency and texture. I could get too technical, and generate geometry-

Even after this automated process, each figure still has to be tweaked by hand. It's a pretty labor intensive process, explaining the $115 per figure charge. At that price, they expect to have more orders than they can fill so they've instituted a lottery process for filling orders.

13 March 2008

Fab @ Home @ Work

The Fab@Home machine is coming along slowly but surely, an hour here and an hour there. I'm soldering wires, and my colleague David is assembling the chassis. The online instructions are fabulous, wonderful detail and illustrations. As we've assembled it, we've been really impressed by the thought that went into the design. Assembly is still tricky - I'm terribly out of practice with a soldering iron, and some of the wires and connections that would have been easy when I was a teenager are so small that they are nearly invisible to me without a magnifying class!

We've set ourselves a deadline of mid-April to have it up and running, so we'll keep plugging away!

11 March 2008

hulu goes live

Hulu is a joint venture of Fox and NBC Universal. I've been using it for the past couple of months and it's impressive - very good video and audio, limited commercials. According to an article in the New York Times, a quarter of internet users have watched a full-length program on line in the last 3 months. This is reaching a tipping point very fast. It's a wrenching change for the economics of the broadcast industry, but great for the consumer of media.

10 March 2008

What do Trent Reznor and I have in common?

Not a whole heck of a lot, actually. However, Nine Inch Nails' new creation Ghosts I-IV ("album" and "CD" seem quite out of date) is licensed under the same terms as this blog - a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike license. In other words, you can take his work and remix and mash to your heart's content as long as you don't claim it's your own or try to sell it.

The marketing for Ghosts is remarkable - you can download part of it free; you can download the whole thing for $5; or you can buy various deluxe packages at price points from $10 to $300 (except the $300 limited edition is already sold out).

Most people who understand the Internet have known for the last 10 years that a new model for music distribution and sales had to be developed. It's great to see an intelligent and creative attempt to do something really different.

05 March 2008

Are you an odd-looking photographer?

So, the London Metropolitan Police wants people to turn in photographers who "seem odd." In my experience that would apply to a significant percentage...

(Photo from Thomas Hawk's Flickr site, used under Creative Commons license.)

01 March 2008

Desktop Factory's Netxplorateur Award

Cathy Lewis is back from Paris after receiving the Netxplorateur award on behalf of Desktop Factory. She let me take a photo of the rather cool looking (and very heavy) award shown here. I'm pleased to see that they are making good progress, particularly on producing models with more easily removed supports. I know they are more interested in shipping product than winning awards but the Netxplorateur and the Popular Science award and the continuous press interest all continue to demonstrate interest and demand for a really innovative product.