There’s been a fundamental disconnect for as long as desktop 3D printers have been an affordable reality: how can consumers easily create 3D models to be printed? At the moment, the best solutions for finding objects to 3D print are databases like Thingiverse — places where you can search for and download files that most closely match what you’re looking to create. The shortcoming with such systems is clear: what happens when no one’s taken the time to create the files you want? Two other, more customizable solutions are steadily becoming a reality for home users. The first is 3D scanning, as typified by products like Microsoft’s next-gen Kinect and MakerBot’s prototypical, lazy Susan-esque Digitizer.
Even once these become more mainstream products, however, they’ll no doubt continue to have their shortcomings. Namely, how to create a product from scratch and how to touch up an existing object. That’s where software solutions come in, and 3D Systems has been hard at work on a product it’s sure will help bridge the gap between your imagination and the print platform. Cubify Sculpt is a sort of Photoshop for 3D printing, a simplified tool that doesn’t require any sort of knowledge in the world of CAD to help make an idea a 3D-printed reality.
Sculpt really is an apt name here. When you start, you’re essentially given a lump of round computer clay. You can add or remove material, smooth, elongate and generally bend it to your will. If the object you’ve got in mind is symmetrical, you can mirror the image for faster, more accurate results. Playing around with Sculpt a bit, it’s easy to get carried away. It really is fun, and we could see it being even more compelling with the addition of a touchscreen or an interface like Leap Motion or the Kinect. It’s not easy, however, as you can see in the above video. The results aren’t exactly precise when you’re doing something simple like sculpting a face. Unless you can become a real Sculpt artist, this aspect of the software will likely be little more than a fun tool.
The applications are a lot more compelling, however, when it comes to things like mashups. The really cool thing here is that you can import a 3D file and adjust or add to it, as you’ll see in the creepy example, below, of the company’s CEO Avi Reichental’s face being added to the body of the sphinx. We’ve got a copy of the mashup sitting right in front of us, and it gives us chills. Nice work, 3D Systems. Once imported, fixing things up is fairly easy. You can re-size, rotate and smooth out connections. When you’re all done, you can either print it up at home or send it to 3D Systems to have the company print it up with one of their industrial devices….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!