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!

Dean

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

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.

3d_printed_umbro_trophy_01

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.

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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.

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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!

Dean

17/02/2016No Comments

3D Milkhouse – Creating a 3D model for toy creation!

Milkhouse 3D Model

Earlier this month we were approached by Made By Cooper to turn one of their clients designs into a 3D model, which will eventually be used in the manufacturing of the "Milkhouse" toy.

As I've said before, sometimes the most unusual projects are the most interesting, and this one certainly was unusual and very interesting! Having been a fan of The Simpsons since I was a kid, I jumped at the chance to create the 3D model. Millhouse is an usual character at the best of times, so envisaging him in a milk carton form is certainly different!product cgiMilkhouse CGI.

As with any project there we're tweaks and revisions, but the guys at Made By Cooper supplied excellent sketches and drawings which made our job easier and we were then able to hand over the 3D files quicker too. For this job we also uploaded the development 3D models to an on-line viewer so every possible angle could be seen, checked and commented on of needed.

product_milkhouse_milk_1600

Milkhouse 3D model wireframe.

There were two parts to this project, firstly to create a 3D model which will be used in manufacturing Milkhouse, and secondly to use the 3D model in a visualisation to show people exactly how the toy will look. The client supplied reference images for the material finishes, which we were able to accurately re-create in CGI.

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Milkhouse 3D model in various colours.

The client also has plans for Milkhouse to be produced in chocolate, milk and strawberry variations. Illustrating the finishes quickly was also a great use of CGI.

product_milkhouse_choc_1600

Finally the Milkhouse 3D model was rendered 36 times, at 10 degree intervals, so that Milkhouse could be viewed in a 360 degree way. Eventually all the angles will be loaded into an interactive viewer. Again, this is another advantage of using CGI, we could quickly render the 36 images, and supply them ready to use.

To read more about the artist, Tattoo Dave, and to see the original pin badge, for which the Milkhouse toy is inspired by, head over to The Toy Chronicle article.

And of course if you require any 3D modelling, or pre-production CGIs get in touch!

Dean

22/10/2015No Comments

Stock and Custom 3D models in CGI Visualisations

Throughout my CGI work, the scenes I create will be primarily populated with the building or product, but to set the scene props, landscapes, entourage, etc are added. These items, big or small have to be created and added to the 3D scenes.

Sometimes we use stock 3D models, which are very similar to stock photography. There are websites where you can download a wide variety of 3D models ranging from costing nowt, to hundreds of pounds. Once downloaded, the 3D models can be dropped into a virtual scene and used within the visualisation or animation.

With the majority of my projects I will 3D modelling various parts of a scene. In architectural visualisations I will model the buildings, landscape and other items, then populate the scene with stock library items such as cars and trees. I do this simply because the stock models available for foliage and vehicles is pretty extensive, and it would be counter-productive for me to start modelling these items, which could make the final cost of the CGIs too expensive for many. A collection of 10 cars can be purchased for a few hundred pounds, where as for myself to 3D model just one car would take at least a week, which makes a typical architectural visualisation just too expensive and time consuming.

architecture_nb_shot_2_final_1600Stock foliage used within a custom 3D modelled environment.

With interior visualisations and digital room sets, I find myself using less stock 3D model, in favour of hand creating custom items. My preference to do this has many factors.

  1. Trends within interior design changes on a monthly basis, and as such many of the stock 3D items are dated, and have sometimes been created years ago. This is OK for the design classics, but for items that change with the seasons it's not ideal, and can really impact on the final image.
  2. I can create almost any item in 3D, without it impacting on project costs or time too much. 3D modelling can be very tricky, and getting items to look realistic can also be hard, if not impossible for some, however when I started in the CGI industry over a decade ago (ouch), my speciality was 3D modelling, and doing it fast and good! Over the years I have continued to build on this core skill, evolving processes with every year, taking advantage of new techniques and software to be able to quickly create virtually anything.
  3. Purchasing 3D models from stock sites isn't always straight forward, first you have to find the right model, at a good price (I am a Yorkshireman after all!), and then trust it's OK to use. Then once I've bought the models, approximately 50% of the time the 3D models will need adjustments such as re-scaling or fixing errors, and nearly every time I need to check the 3D model material finishes to be in-line with my techniques and processes. This can be time consuming, and could also become costly.
  4. If I create the 3D models from scratch, I know the models are good, correct and error free. Maybe I'm not very trusting, or perhaps I just have faith in my own skills! Either way I know when I've 3D modelled an item that it's going to look good in the image, and if it doesn't look quite right, I know how to break it apart and improve it.
  5. The final advantage of creating custom 3D items is that they belong to me! I will add items to my personal library for future use, and I will also re-sell the 3D models though my TurboSquid account to other folk. I must admit I don't receive much in the way of sales, but it pays for my dropbox account at least!

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI Kitchen

Franke sink and tap created from a handful of photos and dimensions.

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI KitchenA wire-frame shot showing the 3D construction.

Although creating the 3D models from scratch has it's advantages, it also has its disadvantages. Some items can be very difficult to re-create in 3D. Items such as cloth, plants, and other organic forms can be tricky, so much so that it's not uncommon for these type of items to be photographed in the studio, and super-imposed into the CGI in post-production. This is purely a time-saving technique, anything can be created in 3D, it's generally a matter of how much time is available to complete a job.

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Dualit toaster, available to buy on TurboSquid

Other disadvantages could be that an items has little information or imagery to create an accurate 3D model. For example it's quite rare to find a piece of furniture photographed from every angle, instead usually the only reference is an angled photo, and generally the photograph will be of medium - low quality or resolution. So to create the furniture does require some educated guess work, and as such can't be too accurate. Clients will sometimes be able to physically send items to be turned into 3D models, which means a greater accuracy can be achieved, and is generally the only way to be certain of getting the 3D model just right.

Although I do find creating 3D models from scratch very useful, sometimes I do purchase 3D models. For interior room sets, I will often pick items from Design Connected, and occasionally TurboSquid and 90% of the time I'll be happy with the purchases. Purchasing these type of models will help speed up the process, which is very useful on projects where time is limited.

Both buying and creating 3D models has its advantages and disadvantages, and the majority of the time the decision to buy or make is made on a project by project case. As I've mentioned cost and time are two factors, however if possible I will always aim to use items I've created myself, this ultimately helps keep my work fresh, up to date and unique.

Dean

02/04/2014No Comments

2D Photo to 3D Virtual Model to 3D Physical Print

3D model libraries exist to allow digital artists to quickly populate their scenes with appropriate content. Using libraries for 3D models can be a time saver, and as such saves money and costs. But what happens when a specific model cannot be found in any library? This can happen quite often, perhaps an architect would like a particular bench outside their building, or an interior designer would like to see a specific item of furniture in their lounge.

The solution is to build the 3D models manually. Using as much information as possible, the 3D artist can turn drawings, dimensions and other references into 3D models. The accuracy of the 3D models is highly dependant on what information can be found. If the item to be modelled can be physically held, studied and measured, then the model will be more accurate than a model created from a handful of photos.

In a recent project I was asked to model the Dark Cross Dining chair.

Black Cross Dining Chair

From the website, we have the above image, and some basic dimensions, and that's all! However from this one image and the measurements I can re-create the chair in 3D. I also used the image to measure the leg thickness, the proportions of the chair, and overall shape and size of various parts. There are some assumptions I made, such as the seat height is similar to a standard dining chair, the chair is symmetrical and the legs are circular. I had to guess other areas, such as the rear of the chair, the curve of the top bar and the shape of the seat.

3D Dining Chair Wireframe

This image shows how the chair is built in 3D. Keeping models simple, and adding detail where needed is my philosophy, and this is evident in this 3D chair. Techniques can be then applied to the model to turn the faceted geometry into smooth curves.

Generally the 3D model would then have textures and materially applied, and rendered inside a scene. This model was created for a client, who only required the 3D model without materials.

I then decided to take this model and use it as a test for 3D printing. The chair didn't require many changes to make the chair printable, however some models will require more work. When creating 3D models for visualisations, the artist will often not model parts which aren't seen, such as the bottom of the chair as this is deemed as unnecessary and time consuming, however with 3D printing, all areas of the model need to be created. Also when 3D printing models, the model needs to meet a certain specification depending of the type of 3D printer that will be used. Some printers require a minimum part thickness of 1mm, so in the case of this chair, when it was scaled to 1/1o the cross detail was thinner than 1mm, so this had to be made thicker.

Once the 3D model is complete, the 3D chair model is then sent to a 3D printing company. There are several companies, all differing in difference services and price. The one I chose to use this time was 3D Print UK. I chose to use them as their pricing is different to other 3D printing companies, as they price on the overall dimension of the 3D model, rather than volume, and as I wanted to print several items (more blog posts to follow) the overall price was better than printing each model separately.

So the 3D models were sent away, and 2 weeks later a little parcel arrived containing the prints....

3D Printed Dining Chair

3D Printed Dining Chair

The prints really exceeded my expectations, the level of detail is much better than I had expected, and the strength of the prints are good too. I wasn't sure if the little fixings would be printed, as they are slightly smaller than the minimum specification, but they are still visible.

3D Printed Dining Chair

The finish of the white nylon print is an interesting finish. To touch it feels like an Extra Strong Mint, and visually it does too. The nylon material which the models are printed with is also quite easy to mark, and can also leave little powdery marks on skin and anything else it comes into contact with, although I presume this is left from the printing process, and any loose nylon powder is soon discarded.

I ordered 2 chairs, so I could try painting and finishing a chair.

3D Printed Dining Chair

3D Printed Dining Chair

The finishing of the brown chair was done using Humbrol Airfix paints, but with nylon prints almost any type of finishing can be used. The 3D Print UK site demonstrates using aerosol paints to finish the 3D prints.

Painting and finishing the models is important with nylon prints, not only to add detail, but also to protect the prints from dirt and marks. Even if a white finish is desired, I would still use a clear finish.

3D printing is something I've always been fascinated with, and printing these chairs has only made me more intrigued and more sure that 3D printing will play a huge roll in the very near future. The quality of the prints is very good, perhaps not as detailed as traditional model making processes, but if you consider the lack of tooling needed, and the individuality 3D printing offers then 3D printing is a very viable solution, especially for one-off items, or for rapid prototyping.

The main downside with 3D printing using external companies is the lead time, which in my experience is around 2 weeks. This is still very good, however I see 3D printing as something that could be incredibly useful for rapid prototyping, testing ideas, and playing with concepts.

The other downside is price, £100 doesn't print a lot, and could soon become costly if several iterations of a model were printed. For myself, I see these external print companies useful for finished 3D models, and I plan to purchase a desktop 3D printer for testing and prototyping. Watch this space......

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