Head scanning, bobbleheads and other 3D printer fun

Highlights from the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York

I spent the past two days in New York with Computerworld Senior Writer Lucas Mearian at the Inside 3D Printing conference, hearing the latest on how 3D printers will impact several industries, including aeronautics, space exploration, medicine, manufacturing, food preparation and even fashion.

But on the lighter side, companies were showing off some cool offerings, including some scanners that could quickly take imagery of your three-dimensional physical head in order to produce a computer model that could then be created on a 3D printer.

At the show, Lucas and I met with 3D Systems, which makes a ton of different 3D printers (they were also showing off the ChefJet, which produces sugar-based printed candy). In this video, however, Lucas volunteered to be scanned by the Sense device (about $400, available at Staples).

Another company offering personal head scanning was 3D Heights, a New York-based company. At the show, they were using a machine to take nine different photos of your face (you put your head into this lightbox-style unit), which would then be stitched together with its software and then sent over the Internet to be produced by a 3D printer.

Again, in the spirit of “we’ll try anything”, Lucas agreed to be scanned/photographed for our video:

The vast array of different products, industries and types of things that could be produced via 3D printers was impressive. We are still in the very early stages of this market (one speaker called it the “dot matrix era” as an analogy to paper printers), but one that I believe has the potential to grow large and fast. It’s not just the builder/maker community that’s excited about 3D printing - combine that with trends in cloud services, crowdfunding efforts (the food-based printer from Natural Machines is being funded through Kickstarter) and open-source efforts, and you quickly see how awesome this could become. Speaker after speaker had similar optimism - the barriers to making something that you can think of keep getting smaller and smaller. I don’t think they’re completely gone yet - you still have very geeky software and the printers and raw materials still cost some coin - but those are going away too. XYZprinting, for example, announced a $500 3D printer at the show - at that price point, a lot more people are going to experience 3D printing.

Finally, here’s our “sizzle reel”, showcasing a bunch of the different printers and printed objects that we saw at the show - while it’s unlikely that I’ll be customizing my car like the liquid-metal Fort Torino on display, I will likely soon get a bobble head of myself.

Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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