Round 1: Fine Artist vs. 3D Printing
My intention was for my first blog to be here months ago, but as usual I procrastinated procrastinating. I know I’m very late to the game. Everyone and their mother, cousin, dog and pet rock has been at this since time immemorial (or at least a few years). But how many of these people are fine artists, 3D designers and living out of two suitcases while running a new business from a laptop as they hop from country to country?
Flashback to 2013: I discover 3D printing. I’m excited because I’ve wanted to design a piece of jewelry based on my oil paintings for a while, but have been discouraged by the cost of traditional manufacturing methods. I check out 3D printing services and modeling programs. I join Shapeways and download Blender. I open the program. I close the program. I abandon 3D printing.
Ok, that last bit isn’t true, but it’s close. Blender looks more confusing to me than an instruction manual written in 15 languages, not including English. I’m not Ms. World Computer, but on and off over the years I’ve worked in graphic design and can find my way around most programs. So, like many novices, I fall at the feet of youtube and beg for mercy. I watch tutorial after tutorial and digitally model coke cans, mugs, weird characters and the essence of banality. It’s not exactly the thing dreams are made of, but it’s a start.
I choose a painting to liberate from its canvas and start modeling in Blender.
I array, Boolean, mirror, screw, solidify, curve, lattice, mesh deform and basically employ any tool I think might give me even the slightest chance at success. Nothing is easy, not as pie or a piece of cake, or any form of dessert. I thought this was going to be fun; like playing in a sand box, like rolling together a bunch of different pieces of play-doh and sticking it in your playmate’s hair.
Perseverance pays off, and finally, I complete a model.
Time to upload the file and cross my fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes that it isn’t rejected due to reasons such as:
• thin walls
• inverted normals
• invalid orientation
• multiple shells
It passes the automated test, which theoretically means it’s ready to print. I place an order for four products; a ring, pendant, bracelet and earrings. Ahhh, all the hard work is over, just sit back and await the result. Yeah, not so fast…..
‘After taking a closer look, we cannot print models in order XXXXXX.’
Ok, no big deal, get back in there and figure this out; clean up triangles, thicken a few walls, orient all normals. Upload, pass the auto test, order, hold my breath, get red, then blue then purple in the face and ….rejection. Long pause while I pass through the five stages of mourning.
Third time’s a charm, right? Repeat the above process and sit it a darkened room waiting for the doomed sentence to be doled out. Ah, but what miracle is this? My models pass the second processing and are in production! I can’t wait, but I have no choice. What no one talks about enough in their wonderful exaltations about 3D printing is that the process is far from a paragon of instant gratification. It can take up to 12 business days to manufacture plastic products using this revolutionary process; this is not Captain Picard’s replicator. A couple days before the order is ready to ship, my bracelet is canceled. I guess everything this time around must be in threes.
So, I sit and listen to the cocks caw (I live in Thailand across from a chicken farm) and wait for my beloveds to find their way to me. The package arrives; with bated breath I pull off the tape, unzip the zippies and hold in my hand for the first time my 3D creations. What a feeling! It truly is remarkable to me that something that started as a 3D image in my head, was transferred to a canvas with oil paint, then reimagined in a 3D modeling program, was sent out into the ether and returned to me as a solid entirely tangible object. I’m in love.
Keep following, I promise we’ll be current before you know it, and on the way we’ll move from Thailand, through Spain and on to Italy.