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Got the Picture?

Got the Picture?

When one has been actively involved with Hobby Class 3D printing for many years (for me, it is over five) there is not much mystery left. One knows what works and what doesn’t. Usually… but, the quantum entanglement co-existance and joint measurability through space-time are still a bit troubling…

It is much like the old hobby of film photography. Back in the days when every camera was manually configured for each exposure. There was a lot more finesse required than “point and shoot.”

Anyone could buy a film camera and “take pictures” but there were limited number of users that really understood their equipment and all the factors to create a great photograph. Ansel Adams comes to mind in the world  of high quality B&W landscape photography.

A few amateur film photographers (me) actually processed and developed their own prints from negatives. A great print required control of both the capture and the development to produce an outstanding photograph.

Hobby Class 3D printing is much the same but in reverse. Many owners can make a print, but few beginners produce their own image files.

My enjoyment starts with an idea of the print I want to make. Then moves to a sketch pad to establish my vision and 3D dimensions. Next I move to a CAD or other type 3D drawing system to “create the picture” of my vision. Finally is a move to the 3D printer to develop my original vision into a tangible end product.

I will print an external sourced design when it makes far better use of my time or is a design I really like. I am not a purist when it comes to how I source every file.

One of the first consumer (hobby) 3D print machine makers (MakerBot) realized there wasn’t much CAD talent in the new 3D print hobby market for creating 3D print files to produce items on their consumer grade printers. They must have determined there would be a good market for selling print hardware if they provided a ready made source of printable files. Thus Thingiverse was born. A free source of printable 3D item files. Their business was selling printers, not the files to be printed.

The supply of printable 3D item files has since exploded into many sources as many hobbyists soon got into CAD (like me) and freely contributed their own designs. Print files can also be purchased from sources who don’t cater to the idea of free. The buyer can decide if it is worth the investment.

I do not wish to imply that full design from scratch is somehow the best way to enjoy 3D printing. Making printed items at the hobby level is a personal experience. No one has the right to say what is right or somehow inferior in how the hobby is to be enjoyed. 

Becoming a prosumer CAD designer (advanced hobbyist) is strictly a matter of the amount of involvement desired and personal choice. 

I believe most structured 3D Print grade school curriculums are all inclusive and take the student training from CAD design to printer operation. I have not personally attended any class sessions but have confirmed my belief from close scrutiny of published information of training curriculums.

The photo-film print is only as good as the negative. Today it is the data file in the camera. In some cases the original art can be drawn in creative 3D graphic systems within a computer. It’s a form of CAD (Computer Aided Design), less mechanical drawing and more organic art. Applications include Maya and Z-Brush.

I play with Z-Brush and I emphasize “play”as I am no expert. These systems are like clay modeling, with unlimited and organic 3D shapes and forms possible. But crisp square CAD-like drawing is also possible. Very deep learning curves. These systems easy create printable files once the art is produced.

One other area worth comment is 3D LASER scanning and photogrammetry scanning. (Nefertiti in lead photo) I am not going into detail here as (presently) I do neither. I did study hand held scanners years ago but discovered they were far too crude in results for my needs. The hardware seems to be vastly improved today.

But scanning has certainly long been used to duplicate items for 3D printing. Including King Tut’s tomb. Perhaps appropriate to say a direct equivalent to my Photography analogy. 

Got the picture yet?

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