08/12/2017No Comments

Why I Fell Out Of Love With 3D Printing

3D printing, marvelous isn't it?! Well, yes and no. Let me explain.

Firstly, 3D printing is a great piece of technology. The ability to own a 3D printer, and make physical objects is great. And it's great that 3D printing appears "becoming affordable" too.

In the past I thought there was a gap between 3D digital files, and being able to hold the object. As someone who deals with 3D files on a daily basis, I felt that 3D files should have the potential to be physical, touchable, even breakable. And I do still think that way to an extent.

However 3D printing isn't as glamorous, easy or exciting as I had hoped.

I have found there are several drawbacks to 3D printing which I don't think are often discussed -

You need a very good understanding of 3D modelling - This may seem logical, right? But I'm amazed by how many people, businesses and institutions buy 3D printers, but have very little idea how to create the 3D content to actually print. I have been 3D modelling since I was 17, and I still have to use all my knowledge to make something printable. And to create a model, suitable for 3D printing, takes a hell of a long time. My advice wanting to do 3D printing, make sure you have a good understanding of 3D modelling. You need to know how to modelling anything. You'll soon become bored printing primitive shapes and Yoda! And trust me, 3D modelling isn't something you can learn overnight.

You need an even better understanding of 27 pieces of software, a degree in engineering and thermodynamics - OK I exaggerate, but sometimes it does feel like you need know know a hell of a lot to make something very simple. For example, you want to print a desk tidy? OK let's research the size needed and the design. Let's make the 3D file. Then make sure it meets all the requirements to print. Then let's use several pieces of software to make sure the file is printable, and in a format your printer can read.
OK now we can print. GO! Oh wait, that wasn't supposed to happen. Is my design unprintable? Was the printer extruding too hot? Am I using the right filament? Back to stage 2. Now repeat this process a few times, and you might have a desk tidy. Or you could have gone to the stationary store, handed over £5, and saved yourself a few hours.
OK you generally will want to print something that you can't buy, but the same frustrating, tedious process remains!

3D printing isn't fast - Following on from the point above, turning an idea into something useable takes a long time. Don't expect to create something with a good amount of detail in under a day, it just isn't going to happen. The only way to get fast results is to try to create the most efficient workflow as possible. For the 3D Printed Miniature Figures we sell, we have a very tight workflow to make the process profitable. However even after creating 100s of miniatures, things still don't go to plan, and we'll easily lose half a day on something very trivial!
Saying all that, you could view 3D printing as being fast. You don't have to wait for manufacturing, minimum run numbers or even shipping. But in a time when we're used to everything being instant, even the fasted 3D printers can feel slow!

It can be a pricey hobby - 3D printers have a huge price range, from £300.00 for a budget desktop printer, to £100,000+ for an industrial grade printer. Here I'm generally talking about the lower end of the price range, definitely sub £5000.00 anyway. An Ultimaker 2, one of the most common and universally known 3D printers, is still £2300.00! That's a lot of cash, especially if you have no commercial use for one. I am surprised the price hasn't dropped a lot more over recent years.
Also maintaining and servicing can add to the cost too. If, or should I say when, something goes wrong, it's going to cost. OK sometimes it might be a £10 part, but it could easily be a lot more if these temperamental machines decide to properly break!

Finally, you'll need time, lot of time - This is perhaps the reason why I'm currently out of love with 3D printing. 3D printing seems to eat up so much time. Whether it's learning the software, tinkering with settings to perfect a print, or disassembling the extruder to remove a blockage, the whole process is time intensive. Perhaps 3D printing is still relatively new, therefore a lot of manual work is still required, but really it doesn't appear to be getting any easier. Maybe I'm inpatient, but if my bike needed as much attention then I'd be hopping on the bus!

So until someone creates a 3D printer offering maintenance free, no set-up require with guaranteed quality, then expect to spend a lot of time scratching your head, googling words you didn't know exist, and swearing at lost allen keys!


31/01/2017No Comments

Will Drones One Day be Giant 3D Printers?

Will Drones One Day be Giant 3D Printers?

Drones are fascinating, and they seem to be everywhere from drone racing, to delivering groceries. I stumbled across this video, which very cleverly shows a drone being used to create art.

Read more

08/09/2016No Comments

3D Printing Will Destroy The World // Negatives of 3D Printing

Quite a headline isn't it? It is both bold, and quite infuriating! What are the negatives of 3D printing? Is it all doom and gloom?

The headline actually comes from an article on the Architectural Review website, fully titled 3D Printing Will Destroy The World Unless it Tackles the Issue of MaterialityPlease go ahead and read the article. In a nutshell, the article essentially accuses 3D printing of being environmentally unfriendly, slow and generally pointless.

I want it now!

The first issue the article raises is that 3D printing is both time and resource intensive, compared to traditional manufacturing. Speed is very relative when looking at 3D printing. Yes the printer may "print at a snails pace", but this is a very naive argument. I know of no other process where I can manufacture something to the same quality as a desktop 3D printer in the time it takes to 3D print an object. No tooling, middle men, and no transportation is required, so that argument is flawed. For mass produced items, currently a 3D printer is going to be slower when mas producing items. However in the future there will be locally based 3D printing farms, able to produce 1000s of items in an hour, and do I believe this will happen.

3D print figure negatives of 3D printingMiniature 3D printed in 2 hours.

Environmentally friendly?

The second issue in the article argues further negatives of 3D printing, stating that 3D printing largely uses oil based plastics to produce the 3D prints. The article is correct, you can use oil based plastics, however plant based plastics are just as easily sourced, and most 3D printers can use either type of plastic. PLA plastic, derived from corn starch, is one such plastic.

Power consumption is also hinted at as a negatives of 3D printing, but the article has no data to back this up. But let's look at the obvious arguments here. 3D printing uses electricity, which may appear at first to environmentally unfriendly. But the production of electricity is becoming evermore sourced from renewable and eco friendly sources. Then there's distribution to consider. Transportation is eliminated when 3D printed parts are printed on site. This alone could be considered very environmentally unfriendly. Formula 1, renowned for pushing advances in technology, has its self openly stated that 3D printing is the future of F1 . Formula 1 teams see manufacturing by 3D printing at the race circuit as a key advantage in both speed and time.

3D Printed XWing negatives of 3D printingReady for the rubbish dump?

Environment, sustainability and society?

The final arguments for the negatives of 3D printing from the article revolve around the impact which accessible, cheap desktop 3D printers have on the environment, sustainability and society as a whole. We've already mentioned the false claims made with regards to the environmentally friendliness of 3D printing, so by claiming that 3D prints will simply clutter our rubbish dumps, is rather unfounded.

Recycling failed prints into filament for 3D printers is one area of development to boost the eco credentials of 3D printing. So perhaps ideas such as this could actually reduce landfill waste?

The sustainability of 3D printing is perhaps one area which will develop and become more focused in years to come. Sustainability is a huge focus for society in general. 3D printing will become more sustainable and responsible as the technology advances.

The final argument in the article looks at how society could embrace 3D printing. Will 3D printing move beyond 3D printing novelty items to produce useful and desirable items? Hobbyists may well be using 3D printing to create novelty items. But why do people do this? Intrigue, fun and experimentation would be my guess. Eventually we will develop ideas and processes to ultimately produce useful and desirable items. I believe we're at the first step of 3D printing. Having fun and creating pointless, novelty items is all part of the process. People need to familiarise themselves with 3D printing. They need to make errors, break things, but smile at the same time. We should focus on the positives of 3D printing. Talk about how 3D printing saved a child, gave a duck a leg, or simply how it could put a smile on your face!


14/06/2016No Comments

Studio Pendant Lights Ready For 3D Printed Shades!

We love 3D printing, so why not use is to add a touch of design to the studio!

3D printing light shades has been something which has been an idea inside my head for far too long, the only thing really holding us back was some suitable light fittings to mount them to. Well today the electricians came round and installed the retro inspired pendant lights to the studio! Needless to say we're very excited!

3D print printing light shade CGI 3D

Pendants installed and looking good!

The pendants are very simple, just a retro cord light fitting and retro bulb. The beauty of these pendants is we can quickly change the pendants whenever we like, and that's just what we plan to do!

3D printed pendants have been done before, but we feel this is a great way to add our own touch to the studio, and by utilising 3D printing technology we can experiment and create almost any design.

3D print printing light shade CGI 3D

3D printed shades inspiration.

The design and creation shades will be a case of trial and error, but that's half the fun isn't it? Some designs will work well, and others may not, but as the cost of 3D printing is a fraction of the price of traditional manufacturing processes then we can quickly alter and iterate designs until we're 100% happy.

So, all we need to do now get designing, fire up the printer and get making! Watch out for future blog posts on the designs and printed shades!


18/04/2016No Comments

3D Printing is literally child’s play!

Does the future of kids toys lie with 3D Printing?

Anyone who knows me knows I love 3D printing! I also have a very curious 5 year old son, who always wants to see my 3D printer in action and always asks "what are you printing now Daddy?". So when I came across the ThingyMaker, a 3D printed designed to print toys, I was very excited in deed!

The concept behind ThingyMaker is quite simple, you (or your children if you really have to share), can customise and 3D print toys! Yes I've seen 3D printed toys, there are 100s of 3D models available for free to download and print from sites such as Thingiverse, but what ThingyMaker promises to do is make the process as simple and straight forward as possible, so in theory even a child, with little or no knowledge of 3D modelling, or 3D printing, can create their own 3D printed toys.

3d printing toys kids education applicationThe ThingMaker 3D Printer.

The actual hardware inside ThingyMaker doesn't look to offer anything new, it appears to be a single extruder (it prints 1 colour), inside an enclosure, and possibly a heated build plate (although finding exact spec has proven difficult). But to me it has all the essentials it needs as an introduction for kids to 3D printing, and it's even quite cute and toy-like in its design.

3d printing toys kids education application

The ThingMaker Design app.

Alongside the 3D printer is the ThingMaker Design app, which is where you can design and customise your toys. It's available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. I downloaded the app, and had a very quick play, and to be honest the app really did exceed my expectations. The way you build your toys is very straight forward and intuitive; you simply drag components into the view-port and the parts snap together, so you know instantly if what your designing will actually fit together. You can then pull, rotate, swap and even colour the different parts. There also appears to be 100's of components, giving you an almost infinite number of possible combinations to build.

I had a very quick play in ThingMaker Design, and came up with some kind of helicopter-space-creature, which had very little "design" and is merely a mash-up of components I stumbled across! However it did show how quickly anyone could manufacture a unique "toy", with no experience of 3D modelling or manufacturing.

3d printing toys kids education application

The Heli-Space-Beast toy, coming soon...

Once you've created your "masterpiece", you can then export it to be 3D printed, and this is the part of the app which really impressed me. The app will de-construct and align all the components so you can print them straight away, and it will even separate the different colours into different prints, so you could in theory print in the correct colours if you have the right coloured plastic filament.

Once the app has done this, you can follow a link on your PC, and you can download the components to then print them on a 3D printer, pretty neat right?

3d printing toys kids education application

Downloading the parts to be printed.

The last step does seem a bit "clunky", but I'm guessing that when the 3D printer is released on sale later this year you won't need to manually download you design and send them to your printer, instead I imagine the app will communicate directly with the ThingMaker printer and automatically print the parts. If it doesn't I'll be very surprised.

But for now we'll just have to do things manually, and I will be testing the printing side of things very soon. Perhaps I'll let my 5 year old have a go, and see what he creates, and of course print it! I'm sure it'll be a random mash-up of skulls, wings and flowers!

3d printing toys kids education application

3D printed toys and parts in various colours.

Being able to design and create unique toys is going to be amazing for children (and us bigger kids), but I also see another massive advantage, you can re-print any broken, lost or even chewed parts in minutes. But will this also de-value the toys? Will there be an unlimited supply of components, or will Mattel be very clever in limiting the number times a certain component could be downloaded or printed? And will they expect users to pay for "special" components via in app purchases? Will we have to buy a licence to make these toys? The price for the ThingMaker (pre-order here) is a mere $300 / £210, which is very cheep for a 3D printer, so I can't honestly see Mattel selling the printer at this price, and giving away all it's content and apps for free, they just wouldn't make any money, would they?

But here's a thought, will Mattel expand on its current offerings? Will they allow users to 3D print other items, perhaps Barbie accessories, or Hotwheels cars? Will I be able to even print non-toy items, something like a broken oven knob, or remote control battery cover because mine has gone walk-abouts again?

The whole concept of printing toys at home certainly seems very novel and fun. I believe the "fun" will be in the designing, printing and constructing the toys, rather than actually playing with them, much in the same way as a child may play with playdoh; the fun is in the process rather than making something to keep. But to me the ThingMaker is more than just a toy, it's a way to make 3D printing accessible to everyone, and to become part of a normal household, much in the same way as PCs and mobile phones have become over the past 20 years.

Once people see the potential uses for 3D printing, people will want to learn, engage and to fully see how 3D printing can be more than just a novelty. 3D printing, I predict, will become part of our everyday lives, but as to whether it's just for fun, or for something more serious, only time will tell.

Until then, I'm going to have fun creating!


03/03/2016No Comments

3D Printing Trophies For Umbro Event

3D printing is great...

...and this little project proves just how the medium of of 3D printing can really bring out the best in design and speed to create something truly unique!

We were asked by sports giant Umbro to help create several trophy designs, and to them manufacture them via 3D printing.

The deadline was short, but very interesting to work on, so how could we not rise to the challenge! We created 3 designs, and 3D printed a total of 12 trophies.


The 3D printed trophies.

The guys at Umbro already had rough ideas and sketches of how the trophies would look, and we worked along side them to turn their concept into 3D models. As the deadline was very short, we decided to work on the trophies along side the Umbro designers at their Manchester studio. This meant we could preview, change and revised the trophy designs very quickly.


Final 3D designs for the trophies.

Once the 3D designs were approved, the trophies were 3D printed. The process of printing a trophy takes between 1 and 6 hours, but this is nothing compared to traditional manufacturing. With 3D printing, there's no need for specialist tooling or mould making and there is no minimum order.


All 12 3D printed trophies ready to go!

The 3D printed trophies were used by Umbro in an awards ceremony for internal projects, and for a small football tournament which took place at the event.

The project was great to work on, and something very different from our usual visualisation work! 3D printing is a great medium for creating unique, and one off items, and everyday it seems that 3D printing is becoming more and more mainstream.

To read more about our 3D scanning and printing services head to the 3D Scanning & Printing page, and if it takes your fancy, we can now also 3D scan and 3D print a miniature you! Check it out at our Design Scan Print 3D site for more info!


02/02/2016No Comments

The Chemical Brothers new 3D printed exoskeleton music video is AMAZING!

Combining 3D printing, VFX / CGI animation and of course a great tune, The new Chemical Brothers new music video is here, and is certainly one to watch!

The video features a dancer, who gradually transforms into a 3D printed exoskeleton. It's a superb video, beautifully choreographed, animated and produced!

As a CGI and 3D printing enthusiast, the video really grabs my attention. I'm not exactly sure how the video and CGI were produced. My thinking and logic would be that the dancer is shot either in front of a green screen, or in the warehouse, and then the warehouse is in fact either entirely CGI, or a mix of real and CGI. Markers on the dancers body may also have be used to track the dancer, and allow the animators to sync the footage of the girl with the computer generated exoskeleton. No matter how it's done, it's no easy job!!

chemical brothers cgi vfx video animation 3d printing

The visual appearance of the exoskeleton reminds me of Cortex Exoskeleton, which was designed to replace the traditional cast for broken bones. This style of 3D form has also been used in films, architecture and product design, and is a fascinating mix of organic and rigid shapes.

chemical brothers cgi vfx video animation 3d printing

Towards the end of the video, the girl is transformed entirely into the mesh form. At this point (and this is my only tiny criticism), the girl / character is entirely CGI, and perhaps the fabric on her t-shirt isn't quite as natural flowing as it looked previously in the video. I'm being really nit-picky here, but when you work all day with CGI, it's hard to not be critical, and see the small tiny flaws. I'm still massively impressed with the video though, and I can't wait to see a VFX breakdown, which according to comments on the Vimeo page, will be with us shortly!

chemical brothers cgi vfx video animation 3d printing

One part of the video I love, and had to re-wind several times was the moment the dancer performs in front of the mirror, and behind the dancer we see the reflection of the girl. Are we supposed to be seeing the dancer from the point of view of her self, perhaps as a ghost, or something more spiritual? The video is already amazing, and  throwing in these little things is never a bad thing!!

And here is the full video! Turn up the volume, go full screen, and enjoy!


20/01/2016No Comments

3D printed miniatures aren’t just miniature!


3D printed miniatures come in all scales. Over the past few months we have been 3D scanning and printing 3D model railway folks in what's know as 16mm (16mm = 1 foot), but the print size can be almost anything.

Over the past 2 days we've printed miniatured from 2cm to 20cm high, all to suit different model scales. The 3D scan can be scaled to to any size, which is one of the advantages of working with digital files!

From tiny to large, we print in a range of sizes!

The largest "miniature" here is the driver, standing at 20cm high! The smallest is only 2cm tall. The size difference is large, but the process of 3D scanning and 3D printing is largely the same.

A 16mm figure looking very smart!

16mm is the most common scale we print, meaning the miniature stand at around 10cm high, with the smaller two models being 2cm and 4cm high. 16mm is a great size to work with, you can see a lot of detail in the miniature, and it's a great size to paint and hold.


Printing at smaller scales can be very tricky, the printer only has a certain resolution, and also the strength of the prints is decreased as we reduce in size. You would struggle to break the largest model even by jumping on it, however a child could snap the smallest print quite easily! A miniature at 2cm high is really the smallest we could print at.

If you're interested in having your very own miniature model, please get in touch!!

23/12/2015No Comments

Merry Christmas! Here’s to 2016!

Well it's that time of year again....

....so first of all, Happy Christmas everyone!

We're almost at the end of 2015, and I find it's always great to look back at what we've done over the past year. We can smile and pat ourselves on the back at the great work we've produced, but also to reflect on the hurdles and obstacles from the year!

I hope this year has been a great one for you, I know we've had a good year, producing some great work for you guys! As usual we've focused on creating architecture, interior, and product CGIs, but we also explored other area such as 3D printing and virtual reality. I find it's always great to explore and play, even if it's just to glimpse at what might be!

So I'll leave you with a short selection of our interesting 2015 projects for you to browse with a mince pie and sherry....

Student Mattress Room Set -

interior cgi bedroom matress student visualisation

The student mattress room set was a continuation from 2014, but is still worth of a mention. We really enjoyed working on this project, partly down to the fact we were given a lot of creative freedom with regards to the set design, and also to how well the final image turned out. It was technically challenging matching the CGI with the real mattress, but the end result was worth the extra effort!

New Broadway -

architecture arch viz vis building residential 3d cgi

2015 saw an increase is architectural visualisations for us, and the New Broadway project was perhaps one of the more interesting projects to work on. The images were photo-composites, set at dusk, which meant we could play with light and colour much more than a typical day-time CGI.

Construct & Configure Interactive Application -

interactive configurator kitchen realtime cgi interior

The Construct & Configure app finally went live this year, and although it's not 100% finished, it shows the potential of what we can do, and the direction we see things going in the next few years! We will be finishing and improving the app, and it will be used by clients to interactively visualise their products. Give it a go if you haven't already!

3D Printed Miniature Figures -

3d printing print scan scanning subutteo

As part of our need to explore and play with new tech, we have been busy with the 3D printer and scanner, turning folks into miniature figures! We honestly didn't know what would happen when we bought the printer, and it still feels very novel, however the miniature model railway guys have been taking advantage and we've been producing miniatures to go along with their trains, platforms and scenery!

There's been so much more happening in 2015 which I haven't mentioned, from virtual reality, to kitchen CGIs, along with all the other little things which crop up, and perhaps get lost along the way!

In 2016 we of course want to continue to produce amazing CGIs, animations and interactive projects, and as usual we will continue to play and explore! On our "wish list" is a VR headset, perhaps an Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, which will allow us to really see what the future may hold! Also we will most likely launch another website, dedicated to the 3D scanning and printing, as the interest in this niche is definitly something we want to expand.

Also, away from the "doing", we want to attend more events, exhibitions, and such to make sure we're surrounded by new and exciting things. We'll be travelling all over the UK to various cities and events, so if you want to meet-up for a brew, chances are we could be passing by some time soon!

So that's it for 2015! Time to step away from the PC for a week, re-charge, rejuvenate, and hit the ground running in 2016!


02/12/2015No Comments

3D Printed miniatures from 3D scans

Recently I have been exploring the use of the 3D printer, and one of the avenues I've been experimenting with is using the 3D printer to produce miniature figures.

The process is relatively straight forward, we use a 3D hand scanner coupled to a laptop to 3D scan the person. This captures the figure in 3D, and works incredibly well. We then refine the 3D mesh, fixing errors, or adding parts which the scanner hadn't quite scanned correctly, and then we send it to the 3D printer.

3D Scanning & Printing Railway Modellers 16mm

The above figures were created for use with model railways, and are printed at a scale to match the railway. These figures stand at approximately 95mm high (a scale of 16mm - 1ft), but figures can be produced to other scales quite easily.

Once the prints are complete, they are then handed over to the customer, who can refine, sand, and paint the figures as they desire! Here are two figures I painted, badly, but if gives an idea of what can be achieved!

3D Scanning & Printing Railway Modellers 16mm

I'd love to see what a professional miniature painter could produce, if you are a painter, get in touch, it would be amazing to collaborate!

Anyway, that's what the 3D printer has been doing recently, and it's definitely been a learning curve, but adds something a bit different and alternative to the Ard Digital portfolio!

Finally, if you're potentially interested in being imortalised as a 3D printed miniature, have a read at the 3D Scan & Print a Miniature You page and of course get in touch!





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