3D printing technology can be used for many interesting causes, such as saving animals, ending houselessness or advancing lighting. However, sometimes the technique can do good in a less world-improving way. Many companies over the world are setting up businesses that 3D print figurines of people. As a customer, you get 3D scanned after which the scans are being transferred into a 3D model. The file of this model has all the information a 3D printer needs in order to print out the object. I’ve been writing about this technology a couple of times, but never tried it myself. Until this summer, when I got 3D scanned myself.
I was working as a journalist for a music festival called Into the Great Wide Open. Together with a team I did a video item on Amsterdam-based company Minify Me, which had a stand on the festival’s campsite. They 3D print figurines of customers, and provide them with what best can be described as action figures of themselves.
Because I was the ‘presenter’ in the video item, I got to test their system on camera. As you can see in the video (in which we speak Dutch, unfortunately), they’ve built a large 3D scanner themselves. I was asked to stand on a rotating plate and many cameras surrounded me. After the plate started rotating, the idea is to keep on standing still, so the cameras can capture you properly and your 3D model won’t look like an alienated version of yourself.
After a couple of minutes, the scanning was done successfully. On the computer screen I watched myself as a 3D model. Some tiny parts of me were missing, which is often the case with 3D models, but on the whole I was able to see myself in digital 3D form. In other words: I looked at a computer version of me. Despite of it being a digital model, it looked incredibly real.
The company showcased some of their 3D printed figurines on-site, to show what the result can be. However, after seeing yourself as a 3D model you get curious what your own figurine would look like. I decided to get the file printed. Minify Me uses the service of another company to professionally print the models, which takes a couple of weeks.
Last month I went to their office to get my own 3D printed figurine – I could have done it earlier on in the year, but I never really found the time. You can see the result, the 3D printed me, in the upper image. What strikes me about the figurine is that these 3D printing machines are capable of accurately printing hair structures, which you can see when you take a closer look at the underside of the 3D printed haircut.
All in all, it was interesting to be guides professionally through all the steps in such a process. The big question, however, is whether printing figurines will one day become just the same as shooting family pictures or not. Obviously, you can’t stop photography, but with the current digitization of photography there is a good chance that something as physical as a 3D print could be an added value for many. So, as the slogan often goes: only time will tell.