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3D Print Articulated Action Figures!
Posted: 02 August 2012 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Slashdot article
 
Harvard Software 3D Prints Articulated Action Figures

A team of computer scientists at Harvard University have developed a piece of software that allows anyone to 3D print their own action figures at home. Not only will the models carry the likeness of the character, they will also be fully articulated. The software can take an animated 3D character and figure out where best to place its joints. In what is referred to as reverse rendering, the software first looks at an animated character’s shape and movement and identifies the best joint points (original paper, paywalled). It then adjusts the size of the different parts of the model so as to allow a real joint to work once printed. Optimizations are then carried out to produce a model as close as possible to the on-screen version, but at the same time workable as an actual real-world, articulated 3D model.

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Posted: 02 August 2012 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hmm, this sounds interesting. I wonder how hard it is to get access to a 3D printer? Would places like FedEx/Kinko’s or Staples have them, if not now, maybe in the future? I can’t imagine the printer would be very cheap, but I love the idea of being able to make some action figures of my characters.

Edit: okay, I overlooked the line about being able to print these at home. Even more interesting now.

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Posted: 02 August 2012 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thats cool. Maybe when this catches on, (provided the software is not $3,000 or more like most of the Autodesk software is), the movie industry might consider licensing their stuff for 3D models… but I imagine they would probably want too high a price for individuals to afford it and it would probably take years to figure out that they are losing more money holding out then they could make by actually trying to understand this new technology and be proactive.

Being able to print your own articulated figure is actually possible now, only you would have to know where best to place to “sprue bosses”- the fine connector supports that hold the adjoining parts in place till you move them for the first time, at which point they snap away or crumble allowing the other part to move freely.  It’s just that most people don’t do it too well.

A while back I got a demo part from one printer maker that had a little set of gears encased in a closed shell, it was all one piece until you turned the shaft for the first time, then everything would rotate/move freely. Without making it from multiple parts or having to assembling it, it would be impossible to make in such a manner other than to have been 3D printed.  Color printing is possible too, I can’t remember the company name but there is a Japanese company whose printers can print in CYMK making pretty darn good gradients and blends… I’ve only seen an example twice in real life, they were only colored (in this manner) on the surface and it was a little blurry or soft looking, but that was like three or four years ago. I’m sure the resolution and detail has improved.
I’ve heard one 3D printer company is playing around with elastomeric compounds, which would allow for rubbery or flexible parts, and someone is working on machines that can print metals… years from now it might be possible to print fully articulated stop motion figures in full color… but probably at that point they will have perfected 3D printers that make copies of themselves:
http://www.geekosystem.com/3d-printer-prints-itself/
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7165-3d-printer-to-churn-out-copies-of-itself.html
and since by that time computers will be much smarter, they’ll decide they don’t have to make what we tell them too and thats when we’ll be able to see what parts of in Matrix were inaccurate and what was spot on… making a 1/8th scale Vicky figure will not seem so important than.
Maybe…

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Posted: 02 August 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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riftwitch - 02 August 2012 09:32 AM

Hmm, this sounds interesting. I wonder how hard it is to get access to a 3D printer? Would places like FedEx/Kinko’s or Staples have them, if not now, maybe in the future? I can’t imagine the printer would be very cheap, but I love the idea of being able to make some action figures of my characters.

Edit: okay, I overlooked the line about being able to print these at home. Even more interesting now.

I think the cheapest machine that makes usable size parts (4” X 5"X 4”), prints in durable material (ABS plastic), has decent resolution, comes pre-assembled and comes with enough bells and whistles to get you started… runs about $4000.
You can get some for around $2000… but they require a certain level of tech savvy….

I imagine at this point the same level machine will go for about $500 within the next 5 years… five years ago the cheapest machine I’d seen was $30,000.

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Posted: 04 August 2012 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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lordvicore - 02 August 2012 09:43 AM

someone is working on machines that can print metals…

More than ‘working on’:
http://www.manufacturingdigital.com/news_archive/tags/innovation/airbus-and-eads-airbike-future-manufacturing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_metal_laser_sintering

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Posted: 04 August 2012 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The average metal printing at the moment is still kind of a little crude, while it will get better quickly, it still has a lot of negative aspects and limitations… I feel often the people who write the articles tend to be a little generous in their assessments. The metal materials that you can currently get from companies like Shapeways or whomever is currently offering such materials, are great for simple jewelry and art objects… structurally they sorta suck. I wouldn’t use them unless it was to show where a metal part “could” go if the part were co-molded…  I’m not scoffing at the technology, its just the really good cutting edge stuff is Uber expensive and hard to come by… the who process is not as simple as the writers make it seem either… the CAD models have to be super tight, clean and WELL thought out. The machines can be cantankerous too… and there are a few brands that have very bad reputations in terms of reliability.  When you look at something like the bike, while it is cool, you have to realize that bike probably cost 10X what any traditionally made high-end prototype would have cost… and possibly might even be the best of several attempts or shots at the finished item… and I also wonder how long the printer ran that job once it was set up. I imagine it was probably something like a day or two… where a CNC milling machine could knock that out in a couple of hours. Practically, most of the current machines are not fast enough to produce stuff much larger than the bike and their use still make sense VS traditional methods. 
One other thing that few people mention about 3D printed parts, is the finish… even the best parts I seen have had slight eggshell finish… and the average parts tend to have a grainy fine sandstone finish… once again though, that often can be attributed to the operator, printing resolution,speed or the machine condition (as well as materials… the cheap stuff is VERY grainy).


The real cutting edge stuff is the machines that are hybrids… using different technologies to creating parts made with plastic, metal and even elastomeric “rubber” parts… but still most of those are at best at the moment “proof of concept” level.

One thing I have to look into again is clear glass… someone has a machine that prints a ceramic material, but there was talk of making actual OPTICALLY CLEAR glass parts. That is HARD. That would be real cool to see. Probably would be real flimsy stuff, but still would be so cool.

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