Frequently Asked Questions...

What is 3D Printing?

Simply put, machine made objects.

Put differently; it's complex. There are many forms of 3D printing. These tend to be either additive or subtractive technologies. Additive processes rely on layers of materials being applied, one layer upon another. Subtractive manufacturing processes remove materials from a larger block to achieve the object. The type of material being used and the approach to the manufacturing process is quite varied. The common thread between all these processes is that a computer performs a central role in controlling the machinery.

3D Scanning?

Grabbing things into the computer!

There are a few ways to achieve this. One is to shine a pattern of light onto an object and a camera 'sees' the pattern; often from many different angles. A computer may then interpret the pattern to determine a three-dimensional surface - imagine a grid being projected onto a face; you'd see the curvature of the features in the curves of the projected lines.

Another method is to take numerous shots of the same object from different angles and a computer can work out the dimensions from common features on the object. Common features can sometimes be difficult to find (eg. on a smooth surfaces) and the use of small target markers (stickers!) many be used.

... and then there are a few other methods. But effectively the end is the same, a three-dimensional computer model is generated from a real-life object.

What materials are used?

Many materials may be used in 3D printing.

Often plastics are used offering differing properties such as flexibility, UV resistance, weatherproof, salts, acids and alkalis resistance; etc. Sometimes other substances may be included in the plastic to create a hybrid type of material, such as metals or minerals (e.g. gypsum). Are available in a wide range of colour and transparency.

Metals are also used in some types of 3D printing. Such as titanium.

Living Artifact Design currently offers printing in plastics. Should a requirement be for a subsequent casting or mould in materials such as bronze, aluminium, stainless steel or fibreglass we will be more than happy to accommodate.

How long does it take?

3D scanning is usually pretty quick. A human subject can be captured, full body, in reasonable resolution in about 2 minutes. But life is often imperfect and additional scans are needed. Likewise with capturing objects, such as, say; a pair of shoes: some shiny parts, some internal. These kinds of scans end up being little more than a reference for a purely 'in computer' built model. The scan data is however invaluable for recreating accurate dimensions and describing difficult features such as irregular three-dimensional curved surfaces.

3D printing... is... quite... slow. Actually. Thin layers of material added one at a time in thicknesses a tenth of a millimetre has some mechanical limitations. It is certain, as technology advances, so will efficiency but for now the process is what it is; a multi-part life-sized bust can take upwards of 4 days to print (> 96 hours!) This is however machine time with very little human interaction required.

How much does it cost?

Prices are derived from material cost, overheads (rent etc.), machine time and skilled human time. It is somewhat tricky to determine an absolutely accurate price without knowing the materials, size, complexity, and the amount of time required to meet expectation. But a short discussion is usually enough to establish what is needed.

In the case of the Living Artifact Design Sculpture Portrait line (here) the prices and expectations are quite firmly established. But, of course, a wild and exotic variation of the imagined object might require a little more conversation.