Getting your head 3-D printed.

I’ve been wondering what this new 3-D printing thing is all about. Well, in keeping with its name, the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, which just concluded in New Paltz at the State University of New York, had a cool demo of it. SUNY has state-of-the-art 3-D printers. Daniel Freedman, the Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, gave a brief luncheon talk about it. Sally Isaacs and Lionel Bender, conference co-chairs, wanted a faculty member for a demo, and after the Dean’s talk, asked me if I’d volunteer to model for it.

Sure, says me. I’ll try anything once. So a couple hours before the demo I wander over to the table in the registration area to observe the machine. It’s a glass-enclosed rectangular box about 15” high. Okaaaay, I thought. Gulp. I guess I stick my head in that box and get it scanned, kind of like a MRI. A little undignified, but anything for science. Or is that, anything for art? Either one.

Main concerns: (1.) Will it fry my brain right away, or will the damage show up in 20 years; (2.) Will the head come out looking like those little shrunken heads we were so repelled and fascinated by as kids.

1.nonfiction_74 copyAt the appointed time I show up, as does the professor, his nice assistant, and a bunch of conference attendees. Ah! Great relief. The box is where the “printing” occurs, not the scanning. I sit on a chair, super still, and they’ll use a hand-held scanner. Scanning goes on for about 1-1.5 minutes, with the lady scanning sides, top and front of my head in maybe 2-3 passes, with the scanner held about 30 inches away.

2.nonfiction_87 copy4.nonfiction_90 copy6.nonfiction_93 copySoon, the glass box starts to make some noise and comes alive, and slowly, over about 30 minutes, in thin layers, prints the “image.” I had a choice of red or white for it. Chose white –  red would be too creepy. The white material, a kind of light-weight poly substance, was wrapped around a spool behind the machine – it was like thick  thread (diameter maybe 1/8”). Lots of substances can be used, including gold (for jewelry!). Apparently, this technology is already being implemented to make crowns for teeth. And you CAN actually make a gun, but after a couple of shots the heat and action distorts it. But, hey, a couple bullets may be all that is needed. :-((

nonfiction_96 copy8..nonfiction_103 copyThe tiny Roxie “sculpture” has a flat back, where it was lying on the bed of the printer, and was built up from there – ending on the nose. (Although, you can see below that the nose was a little cut off…) The 3-D print can be made larger, but that takes longer. The larger it is, the better the quality, up to almost full head size; then as you make it even larger, quality decreases.

Roxie_Munro_3-D(Thought we should have two largish ones made and they could be used as Roxie bookends. Or a big one for a doorstop. Except they are really lightweight – there is a honey-comb interior.)

Roxie-Munro 3-D

So this was a bit of an adventure – no harm done (“…yet,” she says grimly), and we learned a lot. Very cool of the Nonfiction Conference folks to have arranged this.

I’ll have a more extensive report on the Conference, which was totally fabulous!, in another post.

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13 comments
    • ;-))…though the nose is a little shaky. Great connecting w/you at the NF Conf, Kellian. Cool work you are doing, for sure.

  1. Everybody should have a figurine of themselves!
    It sure feeds the ego 🙂

  2. So cool. Glad the conference went so well.

    • Missed you! Yes, it was great… Am tuckered out
      right now, but stimulated.

  3. Colleen said:

    I heard that somewhere on this planet, you can make your plastic mini-me in photo booths. I wanna put my shrunken head on a keychain.

    • Actually, that would be very cool! (Though, personally, I wouldn’t go for it…;-))

  4. Peyton said:

    It’s great to see this, I am regularly involved in 3D scanning and printing…what they have done for you here, was a rather quick & dirty scan and print for demo purposes. 3D head scans can get down to pore and eyelash detail.

    The machine they were printing with is a “Maker Bot”, a decent consumer based machine with a resolution of around 100 microns, which results in a visible pattern, similar to stacking paper.

    Some printers have a much higher resolution and can even print in full color…imagine a pre-painted action figure for example.

    The next 2 years will see this technology advance and the price drop extremely quickly, as most of the major patents end this month and much larger companies get involved. Very exciting!

    • Thanks for your insight, Peyton. They have fancier 3-d printers, but just pulled this portable one in for the Conference demo…they mentioned the color one! But you’re right- it’s a consumer printer. Some are as cheap as $2000, and will go down in price rapidly. The uses for them boggle the mind! Including, say, using chocolate as a substance… For food building. Really fun stuff.

  5. I would like to have one of my self published pictures book, be printed in 3d, can you tell me how, I would be able to do
    it, and how much will it cost me and the in price be.

    • I was just a subject … an experimental model for the folks at SUNY who have the equipment. I do not know how much it costs, or how you would do it. Perhaps you can research it on Google? There must be companies who do 3-D. I assume you have a concept regarding how it would work with your self-published book. It would, of course, not be a traditional book. But could be interesting … great good luck and keep us posted.

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