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!

Dean

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!

Dean

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