Seeking advice about 3D printing, animation and hand-made sculpture

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by packrat_pat, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. packrat_pat
    packrat_pat New Member
    Hi! I just found this site. Can I ask for some advice from experienced users, to help me save hours and hours of research?

    I make animation, and I work with a partner who has a full ceramic studio. She's hand-crafting creature sculptures, and I'm taking photos of them and experimenting with animation. There's no 3D models in these videos, just photos of sculptures. I really appreciate anything you can tell me about opportunities to combine these skills. :)

    We like this approach for artistic reasons. Consider that CGI movies are efficient to make, but stop-motion animation is still its own valid art form. Think of Aardman animation (makers of Wallace and Gromit). I heard that when they tried CGI for the movie Flushed Away, they digitally added grit and fingerprints to their 3D models to keep the look consistent to their style. Well, you get the real thing when you make stuff by hand!

    I'm wondering about applications for these skills, and the business and efficiency of it.

    1) For 3D-printing duplicates of our creature sculptures:
    - What options are there to get a 3D model suitable for printing? Can you help estimate time/cost of that service?
    - Would it make the most sense to give a rotation photo sequence to a 3D modeler, and have them re-create it?
    - Are there easy options for scanning? What would I have to do to access a scanner? What cost? (I've heard a few things about hacking something with X-Box Kinekt scanners at home.)
    - With scanning, what kind of trouble could I expect to get accuracy (like undercut features not scanning well?)
    - How would this effort compare to simply commissioning a 3D-model in the first place, without hand-sculpting? Would a physical sculpture make the modelers job easier?
    - I estimate 5-6 hours labor to create one of the creatures, plus modest materials cost (clay, and cost to fire in a kiln.) Can you help me compare the cost and efficiency of hand-crafting, to 3D printing? For example, if I only needed 2 duplicates, I imagine hand-crafting wouldn't be too much different from the effort to get a 3D model and print. But if I wanted unlimited duplicates, 3D printing would be more efficient, and the 1-time effort would be a minor cost per-print. I wonder where the price break happens?
    - Can you help me find a ballpark estimate of cost for 1 print (perhaps 6 inches tall) in a less-expensive material?

    2) 3D printing as a business: (Sorry if this is asking sensitive stuff... I and my partners are already professional in other areas like teaching, and not trying to crowd you. )
    - Is anyone able to do that as full time income as a creator? Is it more like side income that exists to promote yourself, kind of like t-shirt printing thru Cafepress where they keep a high price, and you can only realistically add a very modest cut?
    - Do you have advice for what kind of stuff could be profitable to sell (higher end/limited numbers, or lower end/unlimited numbers?) Of course, I'm sure it depends on how much you promote it. I'm just wondering whether anyone has experience in doing well with a certain method.
    - Any other advice for how to do it as a business (such as, get your own printer?)

    3) Other uses for these skills:
    - What if we offered creation of ceramic models from concept drawings, as a middle service between people with ideas, and 3D modelers? Do you think there would be a call for it, or would it be too redundant to the 3D modeling? Can you give any advice about the worth of such service, based on how much people charge for 3D models?
    - Would there be more call for the service as a separate business, using Shapeways to offer 3D prints to clients, with the hand-sculpted ceramic model as our unique product? Who might want that, instead of going straight to Shapeways?
    - Can you comment about how 3D printing could assist what we do with animation? (We're starting up a project with a semi stop-motion approach, but less involved. Animating from photos is more limited than making puppets with armatures and entire sculpted environments.) I'm aware of a few animation studios equipped for 3D printing, but I don't know what the practical examples are- they often keep it secret. If you know examples to share, thanks. :)

    Thanks for reading. I'm at - Pat
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  2. Bathsheba
    Bathsheba Well-Known Member
    Pretty big question there, sirmam. I'll hit the points I know about.
    It's been done; I have a scan of myself made on a Kinect. Not sure there's enough resolution for animation models. There are lots of scanners in the world but they only work if your model doesn't have much in the way of undercuts.
    Lots of trouble. Everything with CAD, and then everything with 3DP, is lots of trouble. New technology is immature. :-}
    First, offhand I'd guess CAD would be more time-consuming up to multiples of anyway 4 or 5. Also if you're subbing the building out, I bet that on average quality CAD hours cost more than quality modeler hours. I could be wrong on both counts, of course.
    Second, I always think so.
    Gotta do the homework here my friend. On Shapeways it's strictly by volume. Find the volume of a typical model by weighing it and knowing the density, or by immersing it in a graduated vessel of water, then consult the materials pages here and you will know all.
    I'm full-time as a creative designer for 3DP, but I make more on my own site than on Shapeways. (This may yet change.) It's not that much money; someone with higher expectations would think of it as a side income.
    It's all about finding a niche. The sweet spots where the cost and value-add of 3DP balance out exist, but they're small and patchy. You have to hit the angle just right.
    IMO having your own printer is still a money-loser. Toy printers don't make parts good enough to be useful (unless you have a killer niche of course) and serious printers are best run by full-time experts.

    Mathematicians enjoy making 3D zoetropes; I have seen one of the tobacco-pouch eversion of the sphere, and another of Boy's surface doing something or other. I'm sure real animators do much more with the tech, but I suspect that it is most useful in a pure CAD/CAM environment.

    Going from physical to digital model is difficult, and what you get from a scanned model is a mesh which is not the most tractable type of digital model. If you want the end result to be poseable in the computer, I'd guess it's just easier to build it in there from the start.

    My tiny advices: worth what you paid for em.