When I started in 3D printing some ten years ago, it was an open question as to what successful application would take on 3D printing aside from prototyping.
One of the ideas at the time was figurine printing, in which a scan of some or all of a person would be 3D printed as a memento.
Most often these were done in full color by appropriate machines, such as the then Z Corp color printer line, now maintained by 3D Systems.
I even have one of myself, shown at top. This is typical of the implementation, where the face or head is pasted on top of a standard body to simplify processing yet still arrive at a unique personalized gift.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. But is it still so today?
I’m not so sure.
During the intervening years, I’ve seen several developments that attempted to delve further into this particular application:
Full body, instantaneous 3D scanners. These often very expensive devices were (and are) composed multiple cameras positioned at all angles. They can capture a human body with surprising accuracy and the simultaneous image capture means you can even capture uncooperative subjects like pets or misbehaving children with ease.
The availability of full-color 3D prints from popular 3D print services, who also frequently offer API digital interfaces to their systems, so that developers could literally build a new app that had a color 3D printer on the back end. Many of these apps were for purposes of 3D printing personal figurines.
The rise of multiple business ventures attempting to capitalize on this application, and in particular those that developed dedicated kiosks whose sole purpose was to capture 3D imagery for figurine 3D printing.
There was a time when we saw several enterepreneurs set up what might be called “3D studios”, where interested families could make an appointment and come in for a “picture” session. Except it would be with a 3D scanner instead. It was just like the 1960’s, except with different technology.
The vision was to have this type of job in each major city, where everyone could get their 3D figurines done by professionals.
However, that’s definitely not the case. While there are indeed services of this nature, and also standalone kiosks that perform similar but less impressive prints (like the one at top), it does not seem to have caught on.
How many acquaintances do you personally know who have obtained their own 3D figurine print? Not many, very likely. How many 3D studio style operations are available in your city? Do you know them? Probably not.
And the killer question: would you, a reader of Fabbaloo, pay someone to obtain your own figurine print?
I suspect the percentage of positive responses is not very high.
I believe the pricing of such 3D figurines, plus the notion of “going somewhere to get it done” is just not very attractive in today’s instant online everything world.
The figurine business will persist, however, but as a niche, not as something everyone will be doing.