Anything’s possible with 3D printing
The rapid technological development of 3D imagery and 3D printing is so advanced that actors will only have to be filmed once before their image can be replicated for any facial expression; reefs can be transported and rebuilt around the world and soon you will be able to design and print your own surfboard at home.
And it is all happening right now.
Mark Ruff is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has received awards from around the globe. He has set up a company, 3D Body Scan, where 3D imaging is changing the future of motion pictures around the world.
“I didn’t invent the technology but I am certainly using it to my advantage,” Ruff says. “I use an 80 camera, 24 Mpx array, which instantaneously captures a body or face in what is called a near real-time system. Multiple cameras capture a decisive moment in time from many angles. When these frames are edited together, the moment appears frozen as we move it around.
“Time splice is able to provide all levels of production to provide a turnkey solution. This style of imagery resembles 3D modelling: a technique creating a model of a subject and manipulating it in 3D space. The big difference is that time splice captures the real world in 3D.”
Ruff says that in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where Brad Pitt is born old and dies young, the actor was shot at his own age in every sequence, but 3D modelling and Paul Ekman’s FACS (facial action coding system) allowed post-production to age him and make him look younger, as well as transporting his head onto other people’s bodies.
“The reality is that you only need to shoot actors once now and you can manipulate their image to anything you want for the future,” he says.
Ruff, who says he is the only person in Australia developing this type of technology, is working with Hollywood producers and Australian sports bodies on 3D imagery.
He says the possibilities are endless.
“With broadcast, you can create a ‘fly-through’ effect where a sports player, for example, could appear in your living room; you can create characters for games based on real people; and for the fashion industry, you will only need to photograph people once and you will be able to fit and design garments for them interactively.”
Ruff says once a 3D model is created, it can easily be turned into a figurine and printed in full colour up to 34 centimetre tall.
However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to 3D printing.
David Lennon and Alex Goad have co-founded the Reef Design Lab, which is dedicated to advancing the effectiveness of purpose-built reef units, as well as marine infrastructure such as jetties, rock walls, marinas and canal estates.
Lennon and Goad have designed the modular artificial reef structure (MARS) to recreate a highly conducive environment for sea life in areas in which natural habitats have been damaged or destroyed by pollution, climate change, destructive fishing practices and other human activities.
Locking together to form a lattice-like structure, each of the modules is rendered with various indentations, undulations and holes to mimic the calcified skeletons of dead coral.
“Another application is repairing reefs damaged by ship groundings,” Lennon says. “It would be possible to survey the damaged reef section, create 3D units on the computer, email them to the 3D sand printer, print the required reef units, ship them to site, deploy them and the reef scape would [be] . . . extremely natural and function very effectively for providing immediate refuge for fish and stable substrate for natural coral regrowth or planting of corals.”
Lennon has worked with James Gardiner, a Sydney-based architect who identified 3D printer manufacturer D-Shape in Italy as a potential manufacturer of constructed reef units.
“James and I created the first prototype design we built and deployed off Bahrain,” Lennon says. “My other company, Sustainable Ocean International, with Environment Arabia in Bahrain won a two-year contract to design and build 10 reefs for Bahrain to help increase fish stocks. We saw the need for a Bahrain-based company that could manufacture artificial reef units to supply the Arabian Gulf market and, hence, Reef Arabia was born and founded in 2012.”
The one issue Lennon faces is cost. The reality is that 3D imagery is expensive and like any new technology, it gets cheaper as more and more people use it and more companies start manufacturing machines.
“The current printer we use would cost around $1 million to buy and set up in Bahrain, so it’s not a simple investment, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this specific unit deployed off Bahrain is performing as well as a comparable-sized concrete unit.”
While 3D printing artificial reefs is a big job, something of a smaller scale is a lot easier and cheaper, such as surfboards.
Gary Elphick started Disrupt Surfing just over a year ago because of his frustration with surfboards being mass produced.
Elphick, who ran a surfing accessory business, thought the individuality of surfboards was getting lost.
“I really believed that there was a better way to design surfboards,” Elphick says. “We originally started looking at the technology and realised that through 3D, we could design and print a surfboard.”
Disrupt Surfing uses 3D printing design technology to make a digital set-up of the surfboard and then the customer can direct the art, finish and design.
“We make a digital file from the customer’s request; we then create a 3D render before we 3D print the design using a new heat-sensitive moulded plastic,” Elphick says. “Next, we refine the design until the customer is happy and then we start shaping before uploading the 3D digital file to the shaping machine before being glassed and sprayed. The board is then ready for surfing.
“At the moment, the process takes four weeks, but the aim is to get it down to four hours.”
Elphick initially started working from home before renting premises on Bondi Beach. However, he only takes online orders.
“We had queues outside our building and it was annoying the landlord and other tenants, so we decided to move to our own premises,” he says.
“At the moment, the business is growing 20 per cent per month and we are intending to expand into Europe in June. We have already formed partnerships with companies in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong.”
by Louis White | May 10, 2015