Tag Archives: 3D modeling

3D printing technology and 3D printers

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3D PRINTING: Producing abundance with tech

MANY fantasize about designing and building their dream home. If achieved, the feeling must be one of great pride and involvement. The sad reality is that building a house from scratch requires a whole team, and a group of wholesalers. For starters you would need an architect, electrician, a plumber, mechanical engineer and a surveyor, not to mention all the chain stores you would have to visit to furnish your new home. In the end, it may not feel like you were involved at all – apart from having dished out all the necessary funding.

But what if you could play a bigger and cheaper role in your home’s creation? Of course it would be wise to get the professionals to assess the ground and foundations, but when it comes to furnishing and decorating, the power lies in 3D printing. Most homes are, after all, built from the inside-out.

3D PrinterAs jaw-dropping as it may sound, 3D printing is essentially the creation of solid three dimensional objects using a large oven-sized printer. Objects are “printed” by laying down successive layers of material. The “ink” generally consists of molten plastics, but the more hi-tech 3D printers are able to use workable metals such as nickel, bronze, titanium and stainless steel.

Most 3D printing methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Others lay liquid materials that are then cured with other technologies. Some 3D printers can even reproduce themselves entirely.

3D printing3D Printers work by being fed digitised files or schematics. The design for a particular object is created using 3D modeling software and then sent to the printer for creation. Wikipedia explains the process thusly: “A 3D printer works by taking a 3D computer file and using and making a series of cross-sectional slices. Each slice is then printed one on top of the other to create the 3D object.”

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers for industrial use, but they are now finding their way into consumers’ homes (at around R100 000). The technology is generally used in the fields of industrial design, engineering, construction, auto mechanics, and the dental and medical industries, and is also known as the “architect’s dream tool”. 3D printing is even used for creating jewellery and footwear prototypes before they are mass produced.

3D printingOne fantastic application is the use of 3D printing for reconstructing fossils in paleontology. Ancient and priceless artifacts can be replicated with flawless precision. As exciting, is the reconstruction of bones and body parts in the field of forensic pathology as well as the reconstruction of heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations.

Meanwhile in the biology department, 3D printing technology is currently being studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering. Its applications are to build living organs and body parts. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium which slowly builds up to form three dimensional structures. This field of research has been termed as organ printing, bio-printing or computer-aided tissue engineering. I’m surprised that no one has called it “playing God”.

3D printingThe thought that 3D printing could be the means for producing abundance, excites me. High quality metal parts or tools could be mass produced and then donated to relief efforts or developing communities. Taps, tools, light fixtures, cutlery, hip replacements, 3D models, cogs, prosthetics and nuts and bolts could all be mass printed. Gone are the dreary days of the assembly line; 3D printers could even run overnight while the goods cook in the oven.

Flash just got flashier with Papervision 3D

PAPERVISION 3D: Real-time 3D engine for Flash

THE evolution of websites is certainly something exciting to behold. It’s clear that we are moving more towards a visual culture where attention spans are short and web-users are click-happy. Websites today have to be quick to catch and hold a visitor’s attention. What better way to do this by offering something that is flashy, visually-appealing and interactive.

Adobe Flash is a program for producing flash animations for games, websites, applications and cartoons. It generally refers to a certain kind of movement and visual style. We often see flash adverts on websites. These usually consist of some sort of animation that moves around or responds to your mouse cursor.

Flash CS5 is the latest program for creating flash animations and it recently got flashier with the introduction of Papervision 3D.

Papervision 3D is an open source, real-time 3D engine for Flash. It essentially allows anyone to work online in 3D. It has been extensively used in the gaming industry and is becoming increasingly popular for creating interactive 3D websites. A large appeal of Flash is that it is compatible with all web-rich media, social applications and several gaming platforms.

papervision logoPAPERVISION: THE TECHNICAL BIT

According to Computerarts.co.uk,

“The Papervision workflow is pretty straightforward. You start by creating a low poly-count model in 3Ds Max, Maya or Blender. You then use the Collada plug-in to create a file that contains information on your 3D model’s set-up, textures and animation. Finally, you can use the Papervision component to import your 3D character into Flash CS3.” — http://www.computerarts.co.uk

As technical as this process sounds, there is a Papervision library as well as several Flash tutorials available on the web that allow anyone to learn Flash and create their own 3D avatars, environments and animated webtoons. In fact, several cartoons that inhabit the web are made entirely using Flash. Happy Tree Friends and Money Dust instantly spring to mind as prime examples.

FLASH IN FILMS

Many animation film festivals are now responding to the popularity of Flash animation by adding separate categories in competitions for “web cartoons” or “Internet cartoons.” Flash animation and Papervision is also now taught in schools throughout the UK and is a sought-out talent in the web industry.

Many Flash animations are created by individual or amateur artists. However, it does require a fair amount of technical knowledge to create a flashy masterpiece. Creating animations using Flash is a lot easier and less expensive than traditional animation techniques and distribution is considerably easier and less expensive than television thanks to the Internet.

But the potential for Flash is staggering. A visit to www.papervision3d.org will reveal an animated scene under the ocean blue. By simply scrolling your mouse, you get a panoramic view of different fish species swimming about, encounter a large shark as it swims by and see a few nervous looking divers in the background.

Papervision 3D in action

Papervision 3D

Papervision: An underwater scene as seen at http://www.papervision3d.org

The thought of incorporating Papervision into something like Google Oceans is an exciting one. Currently Google Oceans only offers static images of endangered fish species in different parts of the oceans. But imagine being able to interact with an animated school of marine life by following and clicking on them for more information. This is all possible with Papervision.

A French website www.mtl12.com illustrates the potential for using Flash in the tourism industry. A mouse hover over a link for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel plays a flash video of people walking past the location. A click on the animation takes you into the Hotel itself where you can scroll around and examine the interior to your heart’s content.

FLASH IN GAME DEVELOPMENT

Flash seems to be spreading fast. A joint company called Digimi offers free tool kits and tutorials for designing, managing and importing high-quality, flash characters online that can be positioned in virtual worlds, cross-platform games, social networks, mobile applications and professional modeling and animation tools. Papervision 3D in particular is proving to be a fantastic tool for game developers who want to include 3D avatars in their games without the pain of having to build them from scratch.

“As the gaming market continues to grow, so does the need for customization, differentiation and quality,” explains Digimi president, Eyal Gever. “This is exactly what Digimi will offer: the foremost platform for creation supported by the best human figure content library available in the marketplace.”

3D AvatarDigimi.com hosts a library of creative assets for games, virtual worlds and real-time environments. It also provides a platform and set of web services for game developers to be able to generate high-end characters with minimal development effort.

User-generated content is becoming an increasingly important part of consumers’ online gaming experience. The fact that anyone can make use of these Flash tools and contribute, signifies the potential for gamers to essentially create and tailor their own product.

Here’s a great collection of papervision games!