Sculptris, OpenSCAD and RepRap

I’ve just had my first personal experience of the power of blogging. A friend of mine, Paul, from years ago in Sydney had a look at my first post, and sent me an e-mail. He’s been working with an amazing piece of free digital sculpting software called Sculptris, and sent along a couple of images of mythological beings that he was working on. They look like hand-sculpted clay.

I’d never heard of Sculptris, and I’ve been slowly learning OpenSCAD for modelling. I was a professional programmer for years, and I like the programmer-friendly nature of OpenSCAD, and its precision. Paul is an artist, and Sculptris works beautifully well for that mindset. It boggled my mind that in my first ten minutes play with sculptris I had a recognisable humanoid face in 3D. Its just such fun. Sculptris looks excellent for organic curvaceous stuff. Like modelling Moomintrolls, or ancient Cycladic figurines.

It appears that Sculptris was originally the personal project of one man, Tomas Pettersson, but he made it so awesome so fast that Pixologic (who own ZBrush) aquired it and employed him to continue developing it, and moved him from from Sweden to California to do so.

The EduTechWiki has a page on Sculptris which gives a workflow for taking a Sculptris model and converting it into a form that a RepRap printer will understand and print. Since my printer kit hasn’t arrived yet I can’t test this but I sure hope someone else will. The physical restriction of repraps, especially  to do with unsupported materials, would have to be considered. Might need to slice the model into pieces and assemble afterwards.

I’ve read that the filament I’ll be printing with (PLA) can be used for a form of ‘lost wax’ casting. You take the 3D object from the printer, surround it with some form of casting plaster, then heat the whole thing up past the melting point of the PLA, and it runs out like water. Then you turn the resulting mold the other way up and pour your molten metal in. Then break off the plaster and clean up your metal sculpture.

My machine should have a usable build volume of 8″x8″x4″ high, once it all works. If you want to see the sort of stuff it can make, have a look at Thingiverse.

And if Paul  doesn’t want to wait ’til I’m a Reprap expert and can print his sculptures for him, he can look into the services of places like Shapeways and Ponoko. They can print his sculptures from his digital files in things like plastic, ceramic or laser-sintered stainless steel. How cool is that! And he could set up a store where people order a physical print of one of his designs, which the service prints and posts to the purchaser, and takes their production costs out of his selling price. At least, I think that’s how it works 🙂 Look at kickstarter to see where this can take you.

As I said, I lack Paul’s artistic skills, though I’m learning. So I’ve been using OpenSCAD, which is great for modelling geometric and sci-fi smooth angular objects. Thingiverse has masses of things tagged with openSCAD.

Paul’s centaurs and fauns are just the sort of things I’d love to print. Along with Babylonian cylinder seals, ornate art-deco rayguns, Etruscan-inspired marionettes, solar powered Athames with inscribed runes that light up, etc. I’ve already got a three page list of inspiring things I want to try!

I’m really excited about the possibilities of mixing and matching free and open source software for different aspects of the creation process. Sculptris adds another way of doing things. Get it while it’s still free!

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