Recently started working at a company that specialises in 3D printing, 3D scanning and a lot of other things 3D. I'm studying Engineering Product Design (sometimes called Industrial design), 3D printing on it's own is a deviation from product design but it excites me all the same.
After 2 weeks of work the fun and joy is no more. For one reason, 'Architects'.
However there's still loads of fun for everyone to enjoy, everyone should definitely have a 3D printer in their home.
Based on my knowledge and experience I can make some recommendations on how to get into 3D printing/ scanning for whatever means.
So why 3D print?
A good stupid answer would be, because you can. There are loads of cheap plastic objects that you use around the home that often gets manufactured in China or another Asian country, that then has to be shipped across the world before you pay the pennies for them. You can eliminate the environmental impact but simply making stuff yourself. It's not hard to do, if you know how.
3D applications are making it easier for the average person to do. Autodesk 123D Make Apps
are the best place to start and it's freeeeee.
However these tools are quite dumbed down for those reasons, so you're limited to the amount of control of the input/ output of 3D data. So that might mean that anything you scan/ print might be low resolution.
It's good if you don't have a 3D printer of your own, and you might just want to share 3d objects/ models/ scans of anything really to anyone. Or small desk toys that are just fun to have.
If you want products/ assets that you actually want real use out of, that's when you have to start spending some monies.
Without going into the different types of 3D printing, since google/ wiki can tell you that stuff anyway, know that like anything there's advantages + disadvantages to each process.
For getting into 3D printing, FDM is all the rage. Makerbot is leading the way, it's pricey but for good reason.
They offer a nice variety of plastics to print with, including translucent and glow in the dark plastics. The software is excellent for not wasting material and still creating 'strong' objects.
Other FDM 3D printers are behind Makerbot, but they're more less all the same. Just differences in software, print quality, , price and usability.
The UP Plus 2
3D printer is excellent in terms of reliability and ease of use, however limited to a smaller build area.
Could go more into each printer but later, maybe.
Ok let's say you have a 3D printer, now you need something to print. So you need a model of something.
You could download free models from websites GrabCad
or make your own. For that you need software. 123D make can do the job to an extent, but really you need software like Inventor, 3DsMax, Solidworks, Rhino. A 3D application that lets you generate 3D geometry.
Then youtube some tutorials, it's not hard. Unless you're doing something so complex, that you probably should be paying someone to make for you, or really learn how to model yourself.
If it's art over function, you might want to use a sculpting program like Mudbox/ Zbrush and have a tablet. Nice cheap bamboo would do mostly.
Or forget modelling altogether and start scanning.
Scanning is great for replicating/ modifying something already made, but the scanning procedure require more calibration the more accurate you want you model to be. Really that just means, better setups like having a photography studio, depending on what you scanning, or more expensive equipment, Depending on how accurate you want it.
But really, with programs like 123d Catch, Microsoft photosynth you can generate point clouds/ meshes that you can then use to model over or directly print from. Using any old digital camera.
If you want better accuracy you're going to need something with abit more parity like a Kinect sensor, Gotcha 3D scanner
, Makerbot Digitizer.