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.

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