December 30, 2006
Bringing Virtual Art into the Real World
This morning I found my way to a site called Fabjectory. They provide a service which makes real life 3D copies of SL avatars using a 3D printing process, using equipment made by ZCorp. The rapid prototyping machine creates objects by laying down .040" layers of plaster power covered with colored glue.
Making avatars is their main marketing point, but they also make real world versions of other things. They don't say how the data is transfered but I'm guessing they use a scripted tool inworld to read the geometry, location and properties of the prims then import that information into their own CAD software.
I saw a variety of these 3D printers at a trade show this summer. In addition to plaster, they also make objects using clear and colored plastic, and a bronze/stainless steel powder composite. The cost of these machines start at a few thousand dollars, which is the only reason I don't have one. Below is a picture of two art objects made using powdered metal. The one in the foreground contains nested copies of itself, like Russian Dolls. This was not assembled but made complete in one process.
The intended purpose of these printers is to make quick prototype parts for research and development of products, but as the cost has come down and the quality gone up they have begun to be used by artists to make finished items. The Bathsheba Sculpture website has some good expamples of this. Also this article, A Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities.