This weeks Designer Spotlight focuses on Christian Brock whose love of playing with robots has led him to making his own action figures for other people to play with.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
My name is Christian and I'm based in Northern New Jersey. By day I work as a Web Developer toiling away in code and programming but by night I become a crime fighter! A crime fighter that fights crime by designing little robot toys and doesn't do much by way of actual fighting of crime. Sometimes I wear a cape.
What's the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
For as long as I can remember I've had a love of robots. Transformers in particular grabbed a hold of my attention like no other. Beyond being a toy car or a toy robot it was both, but it was also something more than the sum of its parts. I loved the puzzle and problem solving aspect of it. In my own designs I get to take that idea and build on top of it, actually thinking up puzzles that other people will enjoy solving. The idea that something that I thought up being produced and used and played with by other people that I've never even met brings me great joy.
What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
I was originally introduced to Shapeways through the work of Ariel Lemon (Fakebusker83). The fact that he was creating his own original Transformer-like toys fascinated me. More and more I would explore the site and find fantastic things that people were designing and selling. It was only a matter of time before I could no longer sit on the sidelines and had to be a part of it.
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
Someday I'd like very much to go to college or take some courses in industrial design or toy design. In particular I'd really like to use the professional software systems that so many pro-grade designers use. Thus far though, I'm entirely self taught with the help of tutorials and videos in using Google Sketchup. I've found that the software is easy to get the hang of and is precise enough for the exact measurements I need for creating add-on parts or toy parts. Soon I plan on teaching myself how to use more complex systems and would really like to get my head around parametric design.
How do you promote your work?
The bulk of my promotion is done through my Facebook page but I also make use of DeviantArt to show off designs and models to different groups. I also make use of Twitter and post on all the major forums where I think people would be interested in what I have to offer. I love that I can interact directly with my market and get feedback from their purchases or get input in the design process. Most of my feedback comes from either my Facebook page or from TFW2005.com Radicon forums (A transformers fan site). Once my current product line is ready for the public I plan to offer review copies to several well known YouTube reviewers in the community to help spread awareness of my designs.
Who are your favorite designers or artists?
While there are several different designers that I admire on Shapeways the top are kidmechano, Fakebusker83 and Tom.B. I've been chatting with Wayne (kidmechano) off and on for a bit now and I just love his energy. He has a way of getting you super excited about everything he's working on. Ariel Lemon (Fakebusker83) has a fantastic grasp of design and really brings such a professional level of quality to all of his work. Tom (moonbasetoys) has such precision in his designs and a level of complexity that I hope to emulate one day.
If you weren't limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
My ultimate goal is to be able to design and produce my own Transformer with a level of quality and complexity found in the toys you would purchase off the shelf. With that in mind I'm constantly trying to increase my skills and keeping my finger on the pulse of 3D technologies. The better you know your tools and your materials the better you'll be able to work with them. With the sky being the limit though, I would design a product that my customer can order, have printed, and get in the mail that feels like what they would get at the store without them having to do any assembly or painting. Right now, as awesome as having our toys augmented or even created by 3D printing, the end user is still limited by their ability to craft and paint in order to get the product they want. In the future I see that going away and designers like me will have doors opened to them that are currently only open to those that can afford to go with traditional manufacturing processes.
Anything else you want to share?
I'm currently working on a line of action figures. To my knowledge there isn't much of this sort of thing on Shapeways. There are several figure kits and add-on kits available and even a few designers that have gone and done multiple figures in a common vein, but not what you would call a product line in the traditional sense. Modibot comes to mind as a fantastic product line and it comes the closest to what we think of when we talk about product lines. His concept of Forever Beta really works well with his product type. My line of action figures are functionally identical but each have unique details and character to them. I'm designing them to be released in waves with 4 figures making up the first wave. It's been an ambitious project but the feedback I've gotten from the community has been tremendous. Once the line is ready for release I've even developed "playsets" and "product packaging" that customers will be able to download and print/assemble to add depth and expand the play value of their purchase. These are truly exciting times we live in!
Check out Christian's action figures in his Shapeways Shop and if you'd like to be the next featured designer (or have a suggestion of someone we should interview) send me an email at email@example.com.