How we 3D-printed
our heads

| 4 comments

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

Rather than publish our photos on the contributors' page of the Print Shift 3D-printing magazine we launched this week, we thought it would be fun to get ourselves scanned and printed out. Here's how we did it.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

First we headed to Sample and Hold, a scanning bureau in Dalston, east London, down the road from the Dezeen office. Sample and Hold has developed its own scanning system featuring 18 professional DSLR cameras mounted in a semicircular grid.

We took turns to sit motionless in the centre of the array as the cameras captured us from multiple angles. Sample and Hold then merged the images to build up a 3D likeness of each of our faces.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

This system has an advantage over other scanning techniques because it is near-instantaneous and so can capture natural facial expressions.

However, it is not so good at dealing with the complexity, volume and low tonal range of the average hairstyle, so a Mephisto scanner was used to scan the back and sides of our heads.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

This device projected a pixellated pattern onto the hair and recorded the position of each pixel to create a digital model of the hairdo. Sample and Hold merged this with the facial scans to create the final 3D model of each person.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

We then took the 3D files to creative 3D-technology company Inition in Shoreditch, east London, to be printed. Further processing was required to make the files print-ready: the 3D models were hollowed out and scaled to the appropriate size and then broken down into a sequence of two dimensional layers to be printed.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

Inition printed our heads with a ZPrinter, which fuses layers of plaster powder with a binding agent. All seven of our heads were printed together, which took eight hours. Any unbound powder was then vacuumed and brushed away, revealing the fully-formed 3D models inside.

3D printed heads of the Print Shift team for Dezeen by Sample and Hold and Inition

Unboxing the heads at the Dezeen office was an uncanny experience, as it was the first time any of us had seen a three-dimensional likeness of ourselves. “I wish I’d brushed my fringe,” said Rose while Paul’s reaction was: “Who’s the bald guy?”

Sample and Hold used the same processes to scan a horse for the Turner prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger, who used the resulting 3D model to create a life-sized marble and resin statue.

We also previously featured Inition's augmented-reality iPad app that allows architects to look inside static architectural models, visualise how their building will look at night and track how wind flows around their design proposals.

  • http://www.zazous.co.uk Kate Austin

    Wow! What would something like this cost to have done I wonder? Do Madame Tussaud’s use this technology now? Shame really, I had a friend who worked there in the 80s and he got to fly all over the world meeting the likes of Michael Jackson and Yasser Arafat. Now even creative jobs like that can be replaced by an automaton. Amazing though!

  • James

    Sounds like a very fun idea! How much does a process like this one cost?

  • Dan Leno

    They thought it would be fun.

  • JamesStGeorge

    The big unexplained issue here is cost. Yes, this and similar products are remarkable and clever, but it is utterly useless if things like the 3D scanning, software, conversion to 3D of useable data, etc., cost a fortune. Let alone the time needed to create 3D models from scratch, the long learning time for the software and its expense. Let alone the nasty and insidious new direction of software having to be rented, constantly repetitively paid for, as Photoshop has just moved to.

    For example, how much is the total cost of getting one of those busts made of yourself?

    Then of course there would be big travel costs to a scanning company, until that technology can be DIY at home for nothing as well, like taking your own photograph.

    Costs will be devastating to the use of this technology.