On Monday I received my first 3D printed objects, some replacement pieces for one of my favourite out of print board games, HeroQuest. I’ve been enamoured with 3D printing for a long while —and wrote about it in “Personal Fabrication and Torrented Objects” and “3D Printing is Maturing” in 2010— but hadn’t encountered an object I wanted to use as a test case before now.
I ordered the dice and miniature from Shapeways and was very impressed by the quality of the build. The detail possible through the 3D printing process is impressive; on the miniature the facial features are as clear or clearer than ones I’ve seen made from moulds. The materials I ordered, white and black plastics and alumide, are flexible and well suited for the wear they’ll take when used in the game.
3D printing is becoming a much more mainstream technology. In Tokyo and Madrid, 3D printing photo booths, which create printed 3D renderings of people, have begun to appear while MakerBot opened a 3D printing shop in New York City. In Europe, Staples is rolling out a 3D printing service that should make 3D printing very accessible in many cities.
Before long I hope there will be a local printing service in Halifax, or that the printers will drop to a price where they make sense as a household appliance. For now, I’ll lightly explore what is available through online 3D printing services.