Friday, December 27, 2013

Something I Haven't Done In A While...

A guest blogpost by SCI-FI, who gave Mrs. SCI-FI one of the awesomest Christmas presents ever. I'll let SCI-FI tell you about it.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

This Christmas, I decided to try a unique gift for the missus: 3D printed replicas of our kids.

The scanning company is Forge Studio 3D, based in Lowell, MA. Sessions are 30 minutes per person -- for us, scanning three kids and roughing out their digital models took about 90 minutes.

TL;DR version: Awesome process, awesome gift. Read on for details...
But first, a picture:

(image from Forge Studio 3D)
As with any new business, Forge is still getting set up -- we had a few technical glitches, but nothing that derailed the final product, nor even extended our stay. Shop owner Derrick was knowledgeable and walked us through the process. The kids were patient and more than a little excited about the whole thing.

The scanning itself was straightforward - one scan for your body, then a higher resolution scan for your face. You can strike a pose on a rotating turntable, or Derrick can walk around and scan you by hand (this appears to be a PrimeSense scanner, similar to Microsoft’s original Kinect device). Any pose, any costumes, any props, so long as they fit in the scanning area.

The scan-in-progress is displayed on a large monitor, so you can watch the wizardry in real time. Once done, Derrick checks the mesh for completeness (no hollow spots) and accuracy (no extra legs), and then begins splicing the higher-rez face-scan onto the body. (It’s at this point that most customers can check out; we opted to stay for a bit as Derrick demonstrated the software and explained how he cleans up the images.)

After we left, Derrick processed the scans into a set of printable files. Gaps in the scanned image are filled in, and colors are “smoothed” out. If a person was scanned in multiple sections (legs, then torso, then high-rez for the face), he stitches them all together. From what I saw, this is the hardest part of the process -- natural folds in cloth can make highlights and shadows, which can make for a mottled mess of dark splotches in the digital model. Derrick works the data to smooth out the dark and the light, making anything that was supposed to be one color (a shirt, for example) print as one color consistently.

The first draft of our digital models was ready the following afternoon. The kids did a masterful job of keeping the surprise, giggling at their digital doppelgängers, but never spilling the beans. Once we approved the online models, Derrick sent them off to print.

A day later, he had final, full-color figures, ready for me to pick up. The resolution and quality is akin to small ceramic figurines, detailed enough to bring a tear to the eye of mrsSCI-FI on Christmas morning. (Yes, really.) (Modelers out there may be familiar with high-resolution resin figures used in aftermarket model dioramas - we aren’t there yet, at least for the full-color printed figures.)

For folks in the Boston/Lowell area looking for an affordable, unique keepsake, this is definitely worth it.

The bottom line: $49 for a 4in figure; plan on 30 minutes per person (a few minutes to set up, a few minutes to scan, and then some processing work while you wait); all done at Forge Studio 3D, Lowell, MA. Bring something to occupy any young kids after their scans are done. Costumes, props, heroic poses strongly encouraged.
SCI-FI sent me some pics of the finished models. Quite frankly, the final result is stunning. The kids look like, well, little miniature models of his kids. For $50, this is a freakin' steal, folks. I'm seriously considering finding this place the next time we head back north to visit the families and have it done on TheBoy and BabyGirl G. For anyone in the New England Area this is a definite must-do.

Thanks for sharing this awesome Christmas story, SCI-FI!

That is all.


Old NFO said...

Those are great! And one helluva keepsake!!!

Jennifer said...

That's so cool! Well done!

FrankC said...

Barnes (bouncing bomb) Wallace did something similar, but no plastic printing then.
He sat his wife on a rotating turntable and took photographs all around. With these pics he was able to carve a bust of his wife.

Ivan Khabarovsk said...

I wonder if Colorado has something similar...