They can print a new crown for your tooth, they can print machine components on the International Space Station, and they can print you, too. 3D printers are opening up new possibilities and capturing imaginations everywhere, so I gave one a try this week at Backface, a studio that’s refined a 3D printing process to achieve a quality that we at LAW Creative haven’t seen bettered. And since I was going there to have my own body scanned and printed, and felt like rather poor subject matter, I needed all the quality I could get.
The software behind it all is extremely clever, but the process for the human subject is simple: just step inside a large drum – rather like a hamster wheel on its side – and strike a pose. Positioned on the rungs of the wheel are 96 cameras, spaced at intervals, ready to snap you from every possible angle in perfect synchronisation. This means that even fidgety subjects like children and dogs can be 3D printed, as the images are taken, like a single photograph, in a split second.
These 96 synchronised shots are then blended together using software that creates a full, 3D image of the subject that can be rotated in any direction, so you can check you’re happy with your 3D image before it’s printed. You can see – and rotate – one of my 3D images above, making this the most interactive LAW Creative blog ever. Follow the instructions on screen and you can rotate the 3D photo in any direction. Look down on my head and zoom in and you’ll see the strangest effect: because the software is creating a template for a hollow 3D printed shape, you can actually look inside my body. You won’t (thankfully) see any internal organs, but, instead, a view of my insides as if I were a hollow plastic toy. Please don’t have nightmares.
As with 2D photo preparation here at LAW Creative, shots are carefully retouched after a shoot to make sure everything is looking its best, and it’s no different with 3D printing. The temptation for me, as for many men of a similar age, was to ask the retoucher for an inch or two off the waist and a little more hair on the head but, as Backface founder and chief designer Tim Milward said, it’s the accuracy that makes these exceptionally good likenesses look like you.
At LAW Creative, we’re interested in 3D printing because a) it’s cool, b) it’s a fascinating process and, above all, c), it has wonderful potential as a marketing tool. Backface has already set up its 3D photo studio at a number of events and snapped around one person a minute as event visitors continued to queue solidly for a photograph. A draw like this could create a buzz for any brand.
Check back with the blog in a couple of weeks and we’ll show you the final 3D printed result and share with you more of our thoughts on how to use 3D printing as a marketing tool…