This week we meet Mathieu Roth, one of the team members behind the incredibly popular MineToys, that made it easy for anyone to get a 3D print of their Minecraft avatar. Mathieu and his team plugged into the Shapeways API to make MineToys possible so we asked him a few questions about his work and how the Shapeways API made his business easier to manage, and a better user experience for his customers. So let's meet Mathieu, his chin, his MineToys, his desk and foldeer.
Computers. Then Internet. Then 3D (i drew very badly, and went into design and took drawing courses only because i knew i could create images with 3D softwares instead of drawing crap).
I... guess... i'm more color oriented, but to the feeling i guess it's plain smooth wood, than aluminum or any metal with a perfect shape. I'm obsessed with clear cuts.
Most prized object?
My iMac. Then... ok my iMac, i' know, i became an apple bitch, leave me alone.
Morning person / night owl?
I'm not hanging out a lot as i did a decade ago (ouch, decade... that word hurts), but i still go to sleep at 1 or 2am so i'm guess it's more... night owl than boring guy. Except if morning means 10 am.
" For me (the Shapeways API)... it's not only a huge gain of time (10-15 minutes for every order), it's also greatly valuable for our customer, since they can have almost immediate feedback on what they want to order ! In one click after a small step by our site, they can preview and order the item they want."
What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways ?
At first i wanted to have fast prototypes of toys before trying to switch to larger production scale vinyl toys. Fact is that we found a real cool application with the 3D printing : creating customized items for each customer instead of trying to reach a low price with large scale production.
How did you learn about the Shapeways API ?
I used to do every customization by hand, and every mail by hand... i wasted really too much time with that, and asked the Shapeways team if it was possible to work in common to get an API working. That's the moment i had a chat on Skype with the awesome dev team, and learned there was an early version of the API already available !
What do you think the most powerful aspects of plugging into the Shapeways API?
For me, it's not only a huge gain of time (10-15 minutes for every order), it's also greatly valuable for our customer, since they can have almost immediate feedback on what they want to order ! In one click after a small step by our site, they can preview and order the item they want. Before, they had to wait up to 3 days before being able to order !
Have you had any feedback from the Minecraft team?
We have been to the Minecon in Las Vegas, and offered some toys to the aweshum Mojang team (big up guys !). They all did enjoy their present, and we are now preparing a bigger surprise for them. We really hope they will enjoy it, and maybe put they right new tho their desk, or next to their lego minecraft figurines in their new Offices !
How do you promote your work?
We do run a simple yet effective site (check minetoys.com if you didn't already !) but did a lot of 'advertising' right into minecraft relevant places (minecon, cite des sciences in Paris...). We also do sponsorship minecraft events on reddit, or with bebopvox : they are very happy to have these quality goods to offer for their followers !
Who are your favorite designers or artists?
Personally, i just love McBess. It's the first name that come to my mind, so i guess it's the most relevant. Je t'aime mec, continue ton taf !
Any other interesting projects you are working on?
Yeah, i won't speak about everything, but we are preparing a minecraft wordpress quality theme (minepress.me), doing great ingame concerts (check "atebits" on youtube), ... and yeah, for shapeways preparing more models to come but shhhhhh...
If you weren't limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
Mineways came already with the idea of exporting awesome Minecraft structures, sadly too expensive and with basic squarish one-color blocs. I would be glad to have more "smooth" materials instead of sandstone, and that sandstone was more precise ! I'm having hard times creating some stuff with the current limitations ! I would also be SUPER HAPPY to craft stuff for my everyday life, like minimalistic cable sorters to suit my needs, game console reparations, etc etc...
What do you do when you're not designing?
I'm glad to spend time gaming to release the stress, as i do work 7hours/day and then work like 2-4 hours more at home for my personal projects. Gaming, a lot, always listening to loud music, trying to relax and spend time with my girlfriend. I do also spend a huge time managing projects on our minecraft server, that takes loads of time !
A big thanks to Mathieu for taking the time to answer our questions, we look forward to seeing his next Shapeways 3D printing project and in the mean time we covet his Foldeer which would look AWESOME in the Shapeways office.
Thanks for the Mineways mention, though I guess you saw just the initial videos, since you mention "one-color blocks". That was true back in early December, before the program was released, when I was doing initial test prints. The released program has had full texture printing from the start (and you can change the texture pack to whatever you want). The 3D printer can print fairly fine details if the contrast is strong enough - you can see "TNT" on the sides of those blocks, for example.
As far as "too expensive", that can certainly be true for large models. The famous medieval village that two students in Germany printed would probably run $400 to $600. If you can print at a smaller scale, 1 mm/block instead of the default 2 mm/block, costs drop enormously (and the cuteness factor goes way up) - it basically depends on the wall thickness of the model. Me, I've printed about 20 models at this point, ranging from $6 to $64, with $11 to $25 being my personal target. It's all material cost, and we all look forward to these prices someday coming down.
I agree, a non-blocky printout would be cool. Minecraft has shown that a simple voxel modeler can become massively popular. I suspect we'll see more modelers based on voxels instead of surfaces, with smoothing operators as part of the package.
For anyone interested in Mineways, see http://mineways.com