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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Get a Grip People

The follow-up to my last post was supposed to be an upbeat listing of my favourite, most recent finds of 3D printing apps. It is coming together and will follow soon.

This, however, is not it, and it is not quite so pleasant. Although, I have just read the biography of a new follower of mine on twitter, which goes: "100 % Honest, always Dedicated and incredibly Exciting. Work hard - Be nice - Dream big. Sponsored by God. Social media pundit." Anton Perlkvist

As a result of being reminded that I do aspire to live my life by a similar code, what follows will be less of a rant than I had in mind as I launched my computer!

It is just so disappointing when the darker sides of human nature come to the fore. Some of the contentious comments that are flying around as the result of the Zcorp video going viral last week are beyond ignoring now, not least because they are at times ridiculous, petty, and just downright rude — and I'm not just referring to the scanning issues, but won't go there right now. Also some of them are coming at me directly, I imagine because I like to talk up the positives, so, anyway, as a result, I am not going to maintain the dignified silence that I originally intended. Uh oh, probably going to regret this huh!!?

And just for the record, this is my blog, sponsored by me, and all comments are my own!

Right, anyone on the inside of the 3D printing / additive manufacturing industry knows that the technology is not perfect. We can probably all agree on that. There are plenty of shortcomings (materials, repeatability, blah blah blah). Similarly for other product development technologies such as scanning and design software. And this is the choker for me, the majority of these ill-informed comments are generally all about the pre-build process, but are tarnishing the end result as well — 3D printing. These people seem to have got their knickers all twisty about the scanning process and the subsequent editing of the 3D digital model. Because it wasn't included in the video, certain commentators are making the assumption that there is something sinister going on about the whole process. Such nonsense. There are many laser scanners available today, and they are amazingly accurate tools for collecting surface data — but they're not perfect. This surface data is fully modifiable in mid to high-end 3D CAD packages, which allow the designer to add in features that can then be 3D printed. Yes, it can be time consuming and no, not everything can be printed, but we're getting there.

The point? It's this — if all of this process was documented in the video, how many of the 4.5 million viewers would have watched it?? I've sat through a fair number of CAD demos in my time, and the capabilities are amazing, but watching someone else design can be as interesting as watching paint dry if you are not that way inclined. The intention was to get people interested enough to watch and share.

Furthermore, this video wasn't issued as an ad, it wasn't a ploy to deceive, rather it was conceived as an informative marketing piece and as such I think it does exactly what it says on the tin. I suspect that there are individuals at Zcorp that are as taken aback as anyone else at the success it has seen. Anyone with an ounce of common sense will appreciate that the reality of the process is somewhat longer than 2 minutes.

It's has been suggested to me that this video is as fake as a TV cookery show — well, I'm not sure which shows they watch, but I've been able to follow a recipe and I have had some pretty successful results from TV chefs. Thank you very much.

This is where I am at:

3D laser scanning produces real data, this data WILL need modification for accurate 3D printing, but with a good recipe and a good cook — IT IS REAL.

It'd be great if we could draw a line under all this playground politics, but hey ho, that's the optimist in me.


  1. We agree with you - the video and the print was quite real (and indeed an impressive printed wrench it was), but the problem we had with it was the incorrect impression it left with the uninitiated viewers. Since a significant step was edited out, viewers thought (and many told us this) that they then believed anything could be scan-captured and printed. And that's just not true. And those viewers are not going to read/view all the explanations that erupted later.

    We fear this is going to lead to a big let-down later when people realize 3DP doesn't do what they were led to believe. It would have been very easy for the videographers to add something explaining that more work on the model took place. Read our post on it here and several comments: http://fabbaloo.com/blog/2011/7/20/3d-printing-video-controversy.html

  2. I had read your post, I follow you! And ok, I definitely take on board the point that some uninitiated viewers may feel let down once they have to grapple with the real issues of scanning and 3D printing, they may even be frustrated that they can't get what they want by pressing a button — but that's life. And I don't mean that in a dismissive, get lost kind of way, rather, it's a sad fact that it is kind of how the world works these days! Take the cosmetics industry — we buy into the images that we see, literally — and are often let down by the reality. We don't stop buying though, or aspiring.

    The reason I am being vocal about this is that I really do believe that greater awareness is the way to go — it is the first step to greater uptake. But branding the whole thing a fake because every second of the process was not documented seemed excessive and I was compelled to express my views. Even if a small minority of the video viewers grasp the potential and the possibilities of the tech — it's been a success in my opinion.

  3. The ironic part about this video was that in many ways they simply picked the wrong object. We have been doing a similar demo for years, but with an object that required almost zero processing. We scan a highly detailed plastic dinosaur and then print it. It's a great demo because unlike the wrench which can easily be done in CAD the dinosaur model would be brutally difficult to create digitally and hence highlights the value of the scanner. In our demo no CAD work is required. The geometry of the wrench simply served to highly the missing steps. Plus the headline of 'real or fake' simply invited people to pick the video apart. In the interest of full disclosure we are a 3D scanning manufacturer with a 3D printer that is one of our favorite toys.

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  5. Valid point Mike. It's extremely hard to quantify exactly why some videos go viral and some don't though. This one obviously just had the 'x' factor. I'm thinking it played well to the science fiction crowd! The irony there being that many of those people want the 'fiction' to be real.

    The little green-eyed monster is popping up all over the twittersphere and blog/forum comments. What 3D printing & 3D scanning need is some of the other vendors to come up with fantastic follow-up videos — great parts/products that showcase 3D printing combined with some convivial (perhaps celebrity?) individuals fronting it to keep the momentum going. Rather than the 'we can do it too — and better' back stabbing that isn't helping anyone, least of all the people saying it!

  6. Hey Rachel,

    I was super excited to see the video get so much attention, we need people to understand the concept of 3D printing to really grow the potential. This video played a part in that and so see it is something to celebrate.

  7. Michael Mock of Rapidform posted a technical overview showing how a wrench scan from a Z Scanner (a very quick & dirty scan, actually) is converted into a functional CAD model that can be printed. Anyone interested in the "how" can view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvfqoaCw5vQ


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