A 3D print, 8 years in the making

Back in July 2015, I was in Portland, Oregon, for the O’Reilly Open Source conference, otherwise known as OSCON.

It was my third or fourth OSCON, and sadly it turned out to be my last one (and the event itself came to an end when O’Reilly decided to cancel their in-person events). As an aside, I have very fond memories of OSCON, and was privileged to be able to speak there as well, so it’s a shame that those events have gone away.

My friend Diane Mueller was at OSCON back in 2015, and she had driven down from Canada in her mobile maker lab (a really cool winnebago / trailer kitted out for teaching hardware projects to young people). The next year, she spoke about her GetMakered project at Monkigras – another of my all-time favourite events. At OSCON, the GetMakered team were offering “3D Selfies”, via a combination of the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor hardware, and some Open Source processing software called Skanect.

OSCON 2015 GetMakered 3DSelfie Trailer Sponsored by @OpenShift @IntelOpenSource
The mobile GetMakered Print Studio and Maker Space (via Flickr)

I decided I definitely needed one of these, and before long I was sitting on a stool, on a rotating wooden board, inside a winnebago / caravan, inside the Portland Convention Center, holding still, while the Kinect scanned my head and shoulders. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to prove it, but fortunately, I was able to dig around on the Twitter website to find and screenshot the evidence – I don’t trust the ability to embed Tweets now 😞️ oh, and I also found another similar image on Flickr, because that was also still a thing in 2015.

Shortly after the event, I received an email with the STL file attached, along with a warning that only limited cleanup had been done to the file. I was pretty new to 3D modelling and software – and, I still am – so I think I opened it up once in MeshLab or something similar, had a quick look, Tweeted about it (obviously), and then left it alone.

That was eight years ago.

Now, I have a 3D printer (uh, actually, well… three of them… a story for one or more additional posts).

The first thing I needed to do was to figure out whether I could print the file. Not so simple!

Importing the STL file into any 3D printer slicer software, immediately threw up a lot of errors about non-manifold edges and such. It also turned out that the scale was hugely off, the actual scan was effectively a hollow shell (with no closure at the bottom), with some holes (right in the top of my head…!), a few stray, disconnected pixels of data somewhere disconnected from my torso that were breaking the bounding box, and also, everything was at a weird angle.

My first step was to clean all of that up, and close the base of the design so that had a flat, straight base. Don’t ask me to explain the process, I wish I had written it all down so that I could be better prepared if this happens again…

Once I had a refined STL file, I thought it would be fun to “downmix” it into more of a low-poly design (that style is good enough for Pokémon, after all). I’d come across the Low Poly 3D Generator by Andrew Sink (also available in source form on GitHub), and decided to run the model through that. A couple of mesh decimations later, and I had something that looked pretty good.

To check that the model was not going to cause too many complaints from any slicer software, I also opened it in a couple of other tools, including Tinkercad.

The last thing to do, was print! I used pretty standard settings on the Bambu X1 Carbon, using a fun eSun PLA Silk Red/Blue dichromatic filament.

It came out nicely.

Now I have a small model of myself that can sit on the studio shelf. Maybe I should print some as giveaway gifts at meetups…

I put together a little recording of how it all came together. I’m embedding a YouTube version below because WordPress.com will allow that, but it does not support PeerTube embeds; but, if you’re interested in my video content I recommend taking a look at the original video I posted on diode.zone, an instance of PeerTube, a federated alternative to YouTube that I’m using for studio and maker-related content. You can also follow my account there (@andypiper@diode.zone) by searching for that in your Mastodon (or other Fediverse network) client application.

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