testing, 1…2…

Some interesting/glitchy test scans (March 26th).

Movement disturbs the scan, so doing it intentionally can make some interesting effects.

The basic model M3DI structured-light scanner used here puts out around 1.5 million triangles per scan. A typical scene or object will need around 10-20 scans for seamless reconstruction.

n9 3D Fashion Video

n9 Productions got in touch with me and a few other designers displaying prints at 3DEA, and a quick collaboration produced this great video. I was at the shoot to ensure good fitting of the work. After snapping on different sized connectors, the design fit the model very well.

Director/DP: Mark Ledzian
Editor/VFX: Tamino Castro
Executive Producer: Katie Daley
Producer: Chris Antonelli
Hair/Makeup: Rachel Bensimon
Art Director: Kemper Johnson

Models: Gabrielle Blevins and Mari Agory, Major Model Management

Music: Monosurround – Hello World

Featuring: Cocktail Parasol Hat – Heidi Lee / H E I D I L E E COUTURE
N12 Bikini – Mary Huang / Continuum Fashion
Morphogenesis Shoe – Pauline van Dongen
Seed of Life Corset – Aaron Trocola / ThreeForm/Forty West Designs)
Flow Dining Chair – Dirk van der Kooij

Picked up by Fabbaloo, FashioningTech, TheCreatorsProject, AdaFruit. Also big in Japan.

Presentations at MakeIt NYC

Explaining how Amandacera and I developed our printed corset.

The MakeIt NYC meetup group started by Jonathan Hirschman has grown to 350 members, and consistently fills the venue to capacity. The group normally features individuals and small businesses who want to share their creation or product, or sometimes representatives of companies that provide some useful tool or service for DIY projects. Last night I gave a presentation about my wearable designs and how I make them. This meetings theme was- you guessed it- 3d printing. I mostly tuned my talk to discuss the accessible photogramettry technology available to help people capture 3D shapes (roughly) for use in their 3d-printed projects.

Demonstrating the flexibility of printed products

We also heard from Shapeways, Solidoodle and from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) who, along with Mayor Bloomberg, has taken a great interest in the culture shift toward Making. During Maker Faire last fall, the week was officially deemed “Maker Week”, and a number of projects have popped up to support themovement. In 2013, leadership has started to again recognize the value of individuals in contributing to our economy. There are hundreds of examples of very small companies creating jobs, successful products, and generally a lot of return on any investment. NYC EDC got together with Challenge Post, along with sponsors like Shapeways, Adafruit, and Honeybee robotics to create an interesting maker-themed competition called “New York’s Next Top Maker“, which ask competitors to submit the products they’re working on, and funds six selected finalists. The award of of $4,000 budget for finalist and $11,000 for the winner is certainly shoe-string when it’s comes to product development, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any advanced electronics or other complications, but there are still a lot of possibilities for small projects. I imagine it has not escaped the attention of the organizers that a small consumer product, light on electronics, is a perfect candidate for prototyping and short-run production using 3D printing equipment also made in New York.

“everything, everything, everything…”

3D Printing Classes at 3Dea in NY, December 22nd and 23rd.

I have been teaching 3D printing classes since September of 2011, mostly through Skillshare classes organized by Shapeways. This holiday season I’m holding extended versions of the classes at the 3Dea 3D-printing pop-up store. The two classes are “Foundations of 3D Printing And Modeling” and “Intermediate 3D Printing: Color and Complexity“. Both classes are held back to back on Saturday, then again on Sunday. With the newer intermediate class, I hope to share some of the most popular ways of creating high quality models for printing: Subdivision, Topological modeling, and color. Here are some images of examples made with the modeling techniques taught in the subdivision portion of the class.

Make magazine is sponsoring the event by providing a free copy of their home 3d-printer guide to everyone who signs-up for a class.

…and some animated GIFs:

3DEA Opening

The 3DEA 3D-printing pop-up store in Manhattan has launched and will be running until December 27th. With dozens of 3D-printers and computers loaded with 3D modeling software, the public can get exposure and hands-on experience with some amazing and fun tools of creation. I have several works on display in the gallery area, and I am teaching classes: Foundations of 3D Printing/ Modeling for 3D Printing on December 1st, 22nd and 23rd, and Intermediate 3D Printing later on December 22nd and 23rd.

At 3DEA, The "Doodle3D" app converts your sketch into an Ultimaker print.


After launching the store, the crew and guests relax at the after-party.

Uformia’s Volumetric Solution

In my earlier post “Voxels vs. Polygons” and in my post on engineering.com I mentioned a product from a Norwegian software company Uformia.  They have a volumetric modeling plug-in for Rhino called SymVol that has some unique capabilities, enabling the creations of designs with certain characteristics that are very hard to replicate through traditional modeling. The stand-out features that set it apart are the capabilities to create smooth blends between objects, clean booleans (joining and subtracting of models), and generation of internal lattice patterns. All of these operations can be done in other software with some effort, but are almost always a source of problems. When done using a volumetric approach, the results are robust and reliable.

The main limitation I found in the demo version SymVol that I used was the fact that the geometry creation tools are based on parametric creation of geometric primitives. 3D modeling veterans will remember this approach being called CSG- Computational Solid Geometry, which was the predecessor to the more organic surfaces that form the solids in a modern CAD program. CSG is still popular in some circles because you can represent a 3D object with a very minimal set of instructions. Early ray-tracing (photo-real 3D rendering) software like POV-RAY created nearly all of it’s forms by addition and subtraction of spheres, boxes, cones etc. in various ways. OpenSCAD is probably the most popular implementation of CSG modeling and while its ability to control the generation of a model using parametric, script-driven control is impressive and useful, even the untrained eye will look at models made by CSG methods and label them primitive. They look like computer animation from the 1980′s, because that is the method that was being used at that time. Despite the amazing power to combine, blend, and shell 3D models, a design application is far less useful to me as a designer if it can only create blocky-looking models. Uformia is in the process of developing new approaches increasing the users control over form, but until then, only an experienced designer will be able to create models that don’t reveal the simple math behind their 3D definition. I have not tried the full software, which hopefully does not have any limitation about what type of geometry can be used as input.

The good news is that Uformia has taken a different track with MeshUp that brings polygon modeling into the volumetric domain so that we can enjoy the best of both worlds. They have launched a Kickstarter for a program called MeshUp that will take polygon models and convert them to volumes so the user can freely join, edit and hollow them without the normal limitations. This is not a panacea- there are many challenges left related to creating easy flawless output for 3D printing- but this solves most of the trickiest problems affecting the largest number of users, in one fell-swoop.

For those unfamiliar with what the challenges are and how they affect the experience of creating a 3D design, I’ll review these issues and how the volumetric solution addresses them.

Example: Fillets in traditional CAD

When softening the edge of a model, either an inside or outside corner (a fillet or round), the best solid modeling CAD programs available will often fail to generate the blended surface if there are any unusual shapes converging. Specifically, if the blend moves far from the blended edge, it can envelop a nearby feature. From there, the algorithm has no clear solution about where the surface should be and how the remaining features should be connected. Companies have thrown some very sophisticated tools toward the problem, and despite the simple intuitive wish that the user might have -”Make it smooth!”- This is still an area where even an experienced designer with the best software available may still have to adjust their design to work around the limitations of the software.  Siemens NX is arguably the most sophisticated professional CAD system on the market, and is used to create everything from cars to Apple products to medical devices. Their latest flagship product, NX 8.5, has a variety of tools for managing fillet intersections that you can read about in this excellent in-depth review of NX 8.5 at Develop 3D. Even then, significant skill and experience is required of the user to get the intended result. In contrast, solving this problem in the volumetric domain becomes trivial. Features can be engulfed by the blend and are gracefully absorbed into the form. Very large blend radii can be used, giving the designer complete freedom to shape the form as they wish without the software throwing out errors or generating bad surfaces.

Easy Booleans

Another tricky issue in the 3D world, at least in modeling software using polygons, has been the issue of combining models together and removing the overlap to create a single solid object. This is referred to as a Boolean operation, after the mathematician who came up with the idea of adding and subtracting 3D shapes as if they were numbers. Again this is another function that can create errors in even the most expensive and sophisticated software available. It is not a weakness of the software, it is a simple fact that if you are using what is essentially a set of 2D surfaces in 3D space, there are certain conditions that will create unpredictable results. This is especially true when the input model has some imperfections that the designer has missed, such as holes or double surfaces. Solid modeling does not suffer from this limitation, but the vast majority of modeling programs still use polygons. There are also vast libraries of existing content in polygon form, and volumetric conversion opens up the possibility that models that were created for visual-use only might now be 3D printed without too much hassle.

Lattices and Hollowing.

In the context of 3D printing, models are rarely a simple solid block of material. Since complexity is “free” but material and print time can be expensive, models are almost always hollowed-out in some way, and internal lattice structures are often used to maintain the strength of the part. Until now, this function has been built into the software that creates the final instructions that guide the printer. With filament extrusion based printers like those from MakerBot and Stratasys, the polygon model is sliced and filled with a cross-hatch pattern of material. The user might be able to choose things like fill density and the thickness of the outer shell, but this whole action is applied and considered after the design process is complete. Since it is completely automated, the designer does not have any control over many of the details, and so many variations of form and function are closed-off. What if I, as a designer, wanted to have thicker lattice near the outer walls and completely empty space in the vast middle? Not possible. What if I want a hole in the model so it can be a container, or relieve pressure, or some other reason? I can’t, because if the model is not closed, the algorithm will be confused, not knowing what is the inside and what is the outside. I have deliberately fed bad models to a Zcorp powder printer to see what would happen, and in some cases the result was a spray of voxel rays extending from the opening and impaling nearby models as the algorthm traverse the whole build chamber looking for the missing wall of the model. With Ufomia’s internal lattice generating capabilities, the shape, density, thickness, and placement of internal features is now under the complete control of the designer. 

One of the most painful parts of learning to create 3D models for 3D printing is when a new user must learn how to hollow out their model or face absurdly high printing costs. Service bureaus like Shapeways count volume as one of the most important characteristics in setting the production cost, but unfortunately there is no simple solution that works in every case. Even basic solid modeling programs, like Autodesk’s free 123D, can often hollow a model using a “Shell” command, as long as it meets the requirement that this offset surface does not envelope a feature, making the software unable to calculate a result (the same limitation as with the filleting example). More often though, the user is starting with a polygon model that may have thousands of faces. When these faces are offset with the polygon equivalent of the shell command, the software will not show an error, but it can often go horribly wrong, generating a tangled mass of triangles that is unprintable and almost impossible to repair, even with many hours of tedious work. The only software that does this reliably does so by converting the model into a volumetric space, offsetting the surface, then converting the result back to polygons. Examples of this would be Materialise Magics ($13,000) or Rapidform ($42,000). One of the more accessible solutions has been available in recent versions of Pixologic’s Zbrush. The Dynamesh tool is a voxelization-based system that can convert the mesh into a volume of up to 1000 pixels on a side. That does cause a loss of quality for most types of models, but for detailed sculpture it is often the only realistic approach without excessive cost or labor. On the free end, there is also Uniform Mesh Resampling in Meshlab, which is a bare-bones implementation, but accomplishing the same thing, if you are patient enough to figure it out. None of the existing solutions are ideal, and this is a major sticking point preventing people from jumping right in with 3D printing. With MeshUp, Uformia intends to make this problem go away immediately and permanently. Hollowing a model in MeshUp should be extremely easy, and if implemented correctly, would avoid any loss of quality.

MeshUp does a lot to address a handful of the biggest issues in making models for 3D printing, but there is still work to be done. As of right now, we still have the limitation that all models must ultimately be converted to polygons, and usually to the STL file format, which eliminates some of the potential advantages. Uformia is aware of this, and they are working to address it, but it is only by working with printer manufacturers that the input formats can be updated. They have done exactly that in at least one case. Neri Oxman, by teaming up with Uformia and printer manufacturer Objet, was able to print some seemingly impossible creations by side-stepping the mesh generation stage and generating the final slices that the printer would be applying at each layer. Indeed, the SymVol Rhino plug-in has a capability to export an image sequence of the slices of a model, a method which I think holds the key to opening up volumetric printing, since programs that work with 2D images and video have a solid foundation of code libraries that can be leveraged in the context of 3D printing with very little effort. What prevents this from happening is mostly the lack of standards and variations between hardware. If I have an image sequence only, I have no idea what the scale of each voxel is, how thick each layer should be, what material etc.  There are plans to extend the AMF format to support volumetric models in the future, but the details of how they choose to implement it might make it unusable.  I will go into more detail on that in a future post, but for now the best solution running is Unformia’s MeshUp and SymVol. I hope they are successful in bringing this product to market.

You can find the MeshUp Kickstarter page Here.

ThreeForm Masks for Halloween


Eagle Mask worn by performer Erika Bansen

The ThreeForm Mask designs featured at Maker Faire are now available on Shapeways. There is still time to order for Halloween! I have offered them separately as well as grouped together for wholesale purchase. They are in different ranges of sizes to enable to match a predicted resale demographic (kids/women/men). Each design is available in the ThreeForm Shapeways Shop in packs of 5, 10, 15, or 20, as well as individually. Here is a link to a pack featuring one copy of each design in original scale: http://www.shapeways.com/model/734603/threeform-masks-daredevil-eagle-and-venetian.html

Eagle Mask


Venetian Mask

ThreeForm at World Maker Faire 2012

I just wrapped up an amazing weekend at World Maker Faire 2012. I had a booth for my ThreeForm apparel brand. Ten ThreeForm Hoop Troops promoted all around the event and helped out at the booth, and I gave a presentation on 3D scanning for wearable designs with the models wearing them live for the show! It was tons of fun and their were many awesome sights as is expected at Maker Faire. I’ll share more about this soon.

Procedural Composite Material – Macro Foam

I’ve created a experimental method of generating composite materials with unique properties for 3D printing. This first example is called Macro Foam and you can download the data on thingiverse here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:27495

The idea of this material is that it will be very compressible because of the soft interconnections between the cells (shown in green). When the material deforms enough, the solid parts (shown in white) will collide and begin to resist further compression. By varying the density of the cells and the width of the connections, the material properties can be continuously controlled.

Macro Foam composite material

It’s no secret that 3D printing holds a lot of promise for improvements in materials and manufacturing. The most often stated advantages are that complexity is free, and unique shapes can be produced with no added cost. When applied to manufacturing, so far this has meant that a part can be made lighter-weight with less material, due to the 3D printing’s ability to easily form truss-like structures and hollows. Complex mechanisms can also be produced such as hinges and wheels, but so far the materials and precision are just not comparable to what we are used to in mass production.

What has not yet been addressed is composite materials. A few processes are capable of forming parts with multiple materials in very fine arrangements, but there are no examples of using the properties of the separate materials in a way that takes advantage of their spatial arrangement. Objet describes their material mixtures as composites, but these materials are homogenous (evenly distributed). In the current generation of printer, two resins and a support material can be applied in a single part. The machine uses dithering, just like a regular home inkjet printer. Objet is claiming that each possible proportional variation of the dithering pattern (4×4 voxels) is a unique material. Multiply that by the number of possible materials, and you get a very large number, so that your marketing materials can state you have 107 materials (and counting). The reality is that these materials behave in a homogenous way. That is, they behave no differently than if you had mixed the resins in the various proportions before putting them in the cartridge. The possibility that is being ignored is that of creating a true composite based on the neighboring relationship of the material elements.

To demonstrate this potential I’ve created an example of a composite material, generated using procedural 3d texture maps from an animation program. This example has not been tested, and would probably take some development to become useful, but the concept is fairly clear. Their are open spaces in the material, and the contacts between the touching materials are constrained and predictable.  There is random variation in the finer structure, but overall the material will exhibit a regular behavior that can vary smoothly based on the density of the seed particles that generate the pattern. Simulations will eventually be used to drive the patterning of parts (and even architectural structures) made with 3D printing. This is an example of how the structures will be generated from the simulation results like strain, temperature, etc.