The package arrived from Moddler in the afternoon. As I signed for it something in me screamed, “It’s alive!”
As I opened the box I remembered Colin Clive, in Frankenstien, as he enters the throws of passion and declares, “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
Well, ok, that’s a little dramatic. Its more along the lines of feeling like a “real” sculptor. Its a wonderful feeling to see something you created in the computer sitting right next to you and its something that I, as a digital sculptor, don’t get to experience often enough.
3D printing is a growing industry and there are more and more companies getting into it all the time. So I decided to go out there and see what it was all about. The first company I looked up was Moddler.
Moddler was started by vfx veteran and Emmy winner John Vegher, a founding member of Giant Killer Robots and Pixel Liberation Front. John is an affable guy who is now devoted to the art of 3D printing.
John believes that 3D Prints have the potential to be an artistic medium in and of themselves and after seeing the quality of his work I have to say I agree. In fact, the first words from my wife’s mouth when she saw it was, “How beautiful. We’re should we put it.”
The 3D Printing Process
A 3D printer creates a sculpture by fusing layers of a polymer material. The greater the layer thickness the more block like your model will be and the less detail you will be able to get. The smaller the thickness, the better your sculpt will look and the more it costs.
Imagine your digital model composed of a hundred legos.
1. With a hundred legos it might be a bit blocky.
2. However, with a million legos you would be able to get a very smooth surface.
The main 3D printers available today are the Eden from Objet, Elite from Dimension and ZCorp printers. The cost of the machines goes from 100,000′s to 15,000.
The bane of many 3D printer’s is stair-stepping. The result of being able to see the layer thickness. This creates an obiviously machined quality to it that can detract from the piece immediately. For example, the Dimension elite starts at $29,900. It has a layer thickness of .178 mm. This will get you a great print but with some visible stair-stepping which can be sanded off.
In contrast, the Eden printer has a layer thickness of .015 mm which will print your fingerprints! Unfortunately, it costs more than and arm and leg. Think real estate.
Moddler, The Service Bureau
So, while buying our own 3D printers is still outside of the range of most artists using service bureaus like Moddler is well within reach.
While there is no set rule for how much a sculpt costs to print, Moddler was able to print my 12″ figure for $1026. While quality is one of the variables in cost, I can tell you I wish I had put fingerprints in the sculpt.
It came out incredibly clean and so detailed you can see the eye hole in the zipper on her arm.
The process starts easily enough. Upload your file (.ZTL, .OBJ, .STL, .MUD and others) using the form on this page: http://www.moddler.com/index.php?p=pricing. John got back to me the next morning, gave me the quote and we started talking.
He even checked the mesh for me to make sure that the facial area had enough resolution. When it looked too faceted he called me up, sent me the pictures and checked in with me.
After a quick adjustment in ZBrush, I uploaded another file and in a few days was signing a UPS notice and thinking of mad scientists.
Today, this piece rests in the living room between two of my paintings and stands there with all the commanding prescence of a cock-sure Aviator thanks to Moddler.
For more information check out Moddler’s website: www.moddler.com