Monday, September 10, 2012

3D character print!

Measures 5"x2". White sandstone. Cost was $50 to print.

3D printing has become more and more affordable over the past few years. It used to be strictly for product designers and technical folk who needed to generate prototypes. Now anyone with a bit of 3D modeling  knowledge can submit a model online and have it turned into a tangible object.

I'd been reluctant to spend the money for a 3D print until I found something worthy of printing. I finally decided to team up with one of my friends, who came up with the character design you see below. I modeled it in Autodesk Maya and submitted it to Shapeways for printing. I had visited Shapeway's booth at SIGGRAPH this year and was impressed by the quality of prints, range of materials and prices.

For those of you planning on trying 3D printing, make sure you read up on how to prepare your model for printing. Even if you have lots of 3D software experience, you still need to think of things like wall thickness, and hollowing out your model to save costs. I did NOT hollow out my model and I definitely ended up paying more than I probably needed to because of the extra material needed to create it. That being said, Shapeways is great at emailing you back with suggestions on how to correct your model.

For those of you who don't own Maya, 3D Studio Max, Zbrush or any of the other big name 3D software, not to worry. You can use freeware, like Blender or Google Sketchup to create your 3D model. If you haven't had any experience in 3D software it takes a while to learn but keep practicing and watch lots of online tutorials.

I'm really happy with the level of detail that was captured. Even the tiny bag buckle showed up! It's heavy, but also very very delicate. I feel like if picked up wrong, or even bumped it could break, so I'll be keeping it somewhere safe. I would have chosen the more durable plastic but it was a bit pricier at $75 and I wanted to test out the result first.


  1. Wow first off your rendering was great! It turned out amazing! You said it only cost 50? That's a really good price! I may have to try this!

    1. Thanks for the compliment! I definitely think I could have reduced the price to $30 or less if I'd hollowed it out. Lesson learned! You should definitely give it a shot. Shapeways also has an Easy Creator option if you don't want to build something completely from scratch.

  2. Great model. Is the model in sub-d? Also do you have a tutorial on how to export Maya model to Shapeway.

  3. Thanks Jack! The model was all done in polys. As for a tutorial as to how to export, I tried to follow some of the one provided by Shapeways:

    I had issues with scale when I uploaded. Even though I set Maya's measurements to mm it apparently kept uploading as an enormous file. I'll have to explore that further on my next print. I also forgot that Shapeways up axis is Z, not Y.