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.
At 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.
Soon, 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. :-((
The 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.
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.