Digital clay!

I found another fun new toy, Sculptris. I was looking for something simple to use for occasional character modeling, and weird organics are a lot easier to block out if you’re using a “sculpting with clay” sort of paradigm.

I ended up with this silly little alien head in about half an hour of semi-randomly messing around:

The toolset is pretty intuitive. I didn’t need to consult any documentation to get that far because the tool names and the way they work are pretty clear if you have any background in messing around with clay. Pinch, push, pull, smooth, crease. I like that.

At some point, I want to delve further into this program and try something a bit more ambitious than Mr. Lumpyhead up there. The thought of eventually being able to whip up whatever organic figure I wanted and send it off to be printed is kinda fun–I’d never have to bemoan the unavailability of some specific figure I wish I had again.

Now, if I had a time dilation machine, I could get in all the practice I wanted without impacting anything else like work, sleep, or social contact.

14 thoughts on “Digital clay!

  1. Becky Ratliff

    Very cool. Has 3D printing got to the point where you can model a mini, have it printed, and get it back ready to paint?

  2. Christopher Roe Post author

    Yeah, it’s essentially there already or at least very nearly there, depending on who you talk to. The level of detail and surface finish quality has improved hugely over the past few years, and the materials have gotten better as well, but it’s still a bit pricey.

    Right now, things are still at the point where it’s more cost-effective to use 3D printed models as master patterns for mass-production in other materials, but I’m guessing that by the end of the decade we’ll see costs drop to the level where using 3D printing as a direct production method for small runs would be a more economically viable. Maybe even competitive with resin/metal casting, but that might be a stretch.

  3. Tommygun

    Looks fun.
    I hear you still need to do a lot of careful sanding if you want a smooth finish.
    I’m hoping in 15 years you can buy a file off the web and print your 3D model at home on a $500 dollar machine.
    Well of coarse they may charge you a $1000 a bottle for the resin.
    I wonder if some designs and high strength resins will become controlled items?
    I can see people trying to print handguns at home.

    -Tom.

  4. Christopher Roe Post author

    The sanding and finishing are necessary for some materials and resolutions, yes, but there are machines and materials capable of doing very smooth finishes. Objet’s machines come to mind. In addition to that, some services are better about that than others, simply because they don’t cut corners by trading quality for speed. Plus, even for the lower resolutions or grainier materials, several service bureaus offer post-build finishing as an option.

    On the subject of controlled items, that’ll be an interesting can of worms to watch in a decade or two.

  5. Becky Ratliff

    you can make something that will fire one shot out of a piece of wood. Can’t imagine that resin would be that much more durable, or would it?

  6. Christopher Roe Post author

    I’m not entirely sure. I mean, some services offer metals like titanium as a material choice, and I guess sintered metal might be a bit more resilient than a bit of wood under some circumstances. I definitely wouldn’t want to test that myself, though, since I have a nagging hunch that it’d probably involve pained screaming and frantic calls to 911.

  7. Becky Ratliff

    There’s always some idiot who thinks he has to one-up the Mythbusters, but wouldn’t it be smarter just to get a real gun?

  8. Christopher Roe Post author

    Yeah–those printers are priced like cars on the low end and real estate on the upper end, so you could buy a whole lot of conventionally manufactured guns for the same amount of money. 😆

  9. Glenn Williams

    My daughter in law, an artist, swears by Sculptris. She did a beautiful octopus tentacle (she’s a might weird in her art), then redid it in clay. Connecting to a 3D printer would make her very happy.

    I saw there’s a company going to release a kid’s version of the printer for a relatively reasonable amount that looked like it could make small parts like 28mm figures or matchbox cars. Naturally, now I can’t remember whether I saw it on the web or TV.

  10. Christopher Roe Post author

    Would that be the Cube or the Origo? The Cube seems closer to release, while the Origo is being actively billed as a kid-friendly 3D printer.

    There are also a bunch of other sub-$5000 home-friendly printers in kit form, plan form, or fully assembled form, but their resolution is still fairly coarse compared to the big boys, so they’re better suited to larger, less detailed items.

  11. Darby

    I tried using SILO for digital sculpting, and wow can it be difficult and easy at the same time. There are a lot of little tricks that you have to know about splitting and restitching geometry, and the controls can really goof you up if you’re used to using other products. Drove me bonkers. BUT, it does export directly to STL with no intermediate steps.

    I was making minis in 15mm (actually, 1/100 scale) and it cost $400 to print out 6 figures in a line (all different poses), but even at 16 micron layer thickness there were very visible striations. The dudes were so small that any sanding would have taken a head off. The other problem was that as an experiment I made them with realistic proportions, which meant that it would be impossible to have them reproduced in metal. It was a very expensive experiment…

  12. Christopher Roe Post author

    Glenn: The Cube looks cute–I’d like to have one of those with a much better resolution in a few years.

    Darby: Yeah, I kind of figured 15mm was pushing it when I saw the close-up photos on Moddler and other sites. You can do pretty good figures in larger scales, but the smaller you get, the less awesome the results seem to be.

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