3D Printing From Virtual Reality
At the FuseBox, we like to experiment with new, creative ideas and discover processes to enable artists to benefit from immersive technologies, helping them find new opportunities to innovate.
Last week, with FuseBox residents Maf’j Alvarez and Phil Nutley, we decided to look into the possibilities of producing tangible, physical artwork, designed entirely in virtual reality.
To achieve this, we chose the 3D drawing application, Google Tiltbrush. Tiltbrush allows users to draw in space and unlike traditional painting, requires artists to produce work that is 3D.
This idea of printing work from Tiltbrush has been shared online before, however the process in the past, has proven to be complicated with additional 3D modeling required… something we hoped could be avoided with intelligent design decisions.
Step One: Creating the Assets
The first stage of the process was to produce some artwork to print, for this we were joined by two of the FuseBox’s designer residents, Maf’j and Phil.
Having used Tiltbrush before, this didn’t take too long, however it was important to bear in mind the limitations of 3D printing, especially when deciding on line thickness and minimising potential overhangs. For this reason, Phil decided to design his piece upside-down, Maf’j ensured overhangs in her design were properly supported and both worked with slightly thicker than usual brushes so nothing was too small when it came to printing at a smaller scale.
The final step was to export the designs as a 3D model. Fortunately Google has anticipated this and added an option within the program to do so.
Step Two: Preparing Models To Print
For us, this stage of the process was straightforward. By opening the models in Microsoft’s 3D viewer we could confirm that the polygon and face count wasn’t excessively high and then our 3D printer software proceeded to optimise the mesh for printing.
The FuseBox’s 3D printer is a duel extruder printer, meaning if necessary, the support material, which the printer produces and then builds upon to support overhangs could be extruded from the second nozzle. For speed we decided to print everything from one and we resized the prints to give us a more manageable print time.
Step Three: Printing
The final step was to export the file to the printer. After recalibrating the printer we were presented with a visual preview and estimations of the print time and plastic usage. Printing the two models at a small scale took only an hour and a half and ensured we used minimal plastic for these early tests. We pressed “Go” and left the printer to get to work.
Returning a couple of hours later, we found two perfectly formed reproductions of the objects designed in VR. Although a significant amount of support material was used for the more complicated areas it was easy enough to chip away.
Knowing that this process works we are looking forward to going back and experimenting with more complicated designs at larger scales and possibly utilising more detailed CAD-like applications such as Gravity Sketch.
It has also opened up the possibilities for rapid prototyping of designs and concepts which should prove valuable for future resident projects and research.
If you are an artist or creative business interested in this experimenting with this process, get in touch! We would love to hear what ideas you have and how we can support them.Get In Touch