As part of my Advanced Digital Imaging coursework, I’ve been working a lot with 3d modeling and rendering. Part of this involves working intensely with Google SketchUp Pro 7, which is at once an amazing and frustrating application.
Frustrating in that the interface is cumbersome but amazing in that it’s open-source and tons of people in the 3d community have built plug-ins for it ($) which extend the reaches of SketchUp into the realms of Maya-quality photo-realistic renders and also into the world of rapid prototyping, or 3D printing.
Working from a photo on Google image search of a 1986 Mac Plus, I created a 3d model on SketchUp of the computer. Then, with the help of a plugin from Cadspan, I formatted the geometry for 3D printing at NYDesigns, an awesome place subsided by CUNY, (or SUNY, not sure) that RP’s on the cheap. Their printer, Scorpion brand I believe, creates three dimensional objects by laying down a pre-programmed aggregation of “support material” a brittle, soluble polymer which supports the final, outer layer of softer, white plastic which is “built” on top of it, layer by layer, each with a separate z-axis print head until the model is complete. At this point, the model is dipped in a solvent (or something) with dissolves the support material, leaving you with a white, weirdly organic looking, and fairly accurate 3d construction of your virtual model.
What are the implications for this totally crucial technology, especially as 3d printers expand their repertoire of materials and color. Will we soon be able to merely buy the 3D geometry of our material desires online and output to our home RP devices? In this event, one must presume there would be some kind of Pirate Bay for objects, imagine pirating a Eames chair or even complex electronics. The economic ramifications of this situation would be far-reaching indeed…think what the Replicator did for Earth on Star Trek! Click on the picture below to download my SketchUp model for you own use!