New toolkit for 3D printing: Turn digital pictures into 3D art

I previously reported several times about Shapeways, a spinn-off from the Lifestyle Incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, located in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The company provides 3D-printing capabilities to everyone.

Part of their mission is to provide users a set of toolkits that allow also the average consumer to create 3D objects without any CAD or programming skills. Today, Shapeways has introduced their so called "Photoshaper", a service that allows anyone to turn digital photographs into 3D printed objects.

Users can logon to, upload any photo and order their creations directly from Shapeways. Now you not only can see your girl friend in your wallet when you are on a business trip, but touch her in 3D!

“Shapeways really makes 3D creation fun, easy and available for everyone,” commented Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways is quoted in a press release. “With Photoshaper we have empowered the average consumer to tap into technologies that used to be out of reach. In doing so Shapeways redefines online consumerism with direct access to unique and individually customized products that were never available before.”

Based on the contrast of the picture (light and dark) the Shapeways Photoshaper automatically creates a depth-layered 3D object that can be printed by Shapeways with the latest in 3D printing technology (I believe with a little bit of photoshopping before uploading the pictures, results can be improved a lot). The 3D photo will be produced and delivered globally within 10 days and costs between $40-50 (USD), including shipping. For best results. use a 1.5 megapixel or better picture. The size of the 3D photo is 13cm to 9cm (5.11” to 3.5”) landscape and portrait.


About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.