With all the design work done for my Custom Cutaway Lightsaber, it's time to 3D print everything on the Form 2 SLA printer. We were lucky enough to get a pre-production Form 2 from FormLabs and had been printing a ton of projects before the official release. We were very pleased with all the prints as Formlabs had upgraded all of the items (and then some) on my wishlist from my time with the Form 1+. The Form 2 had been living up to my expectations but I designed some of the lightsaber parts to torture test it further.
While the Form 2 was more than capable of printing out an entire half of the saber in one piece, I broke it up into many parts for a few reasons. First, I wanted to show off various resins and designed the saber to make use of the black, grey, clear and flexible materials, most of which had just had formulation upgrades. Second, I wanted to see what the tolerances and fit quality were like for assemblies. Third, as we have talked about before, prints tend to look better when all the parts aren't globbed together but instead printed as individual pieces. Plus, the quality of parts can sometimes be affected by orientation and printing everything as one piece is not always optimal.
Once modeling was finished, the next step was to export all the parts as STL files - generally the standard for 3D printing. The grips and pommel were exported as a whole piece and then cut in half using Netfabb - this was a case of using the right tool for the job. Netfabb (recently acquired by Autodesk) is also my goto program for mesh repair which is a vital part of 3D printing. Any holes, flipped polygon faces or other irregularities can cause a print to fail. Formlabs PreForm software has Netfabb repair functionality built in and will warn you and offer to fix possible issues upon model import.
This is a plastic helmet. Urethane plastic, to be exact. It's a resin kit that I got from my pal Allen a while back and I was chomping at the bit to get it painted, but really wanted to make sure that it didn't end up looking like that original plastic. I wanted it to look like an old, weather beaten hunk of battle scarred steel. I wanted it to look like real metal.
I've covered metallic finishes here on Tested before, but this was a very different beast. It couldn't look chromed and shiny like Rey's blaster. It needed to be dark, textured, rusty, and grimy. When painting something that needs to be metallic, there tends to be an impulse to reach for a "metal" can of spray paint cover every square inch of plastic in a silver metallic sheen. This is the easy way to do it, but if you look at a piece of bare steel, something that spends its days exposed to the elements like a manhole cover, you'll note that there isn't a single bit of shiny silver anywhere on it. This is why I started with a dark color.
The kit was already primed, so all I needed to do was hit it with the base color. In this instance I used a rattle can of nice bronze paint.
Once this base coat of dull, dark paint dried, then the real fun began. I started with some silver acrylic paint. Yes I said earlier that we wouldn't see any silver spots, but don't worry, I was incredibly subtle with my use of this bright paint. My application was a slightly heavy drybrush. I applied just a little bit of silver paint to a ratty old brush, wiped most of that paint off on a paper towel, and then "scratched" the bronze base coat with the brush.
Hey gang! It's been a while since we've seen each other--did you miss us? In case you haven't noticed, we've been out of office for the past three weeks, and things slowed down a bit on the site. Joey and I just returned from an 18-day trip at the top of the world, traveling with Astronaut Chris Hadfield as part of his Generator Arctic team on the Quark Expeditions tour of the Canadian Arctic. It was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a remote part of the world--traveling by Russian Icebreaker--immerse ourselves in and extreme environment, and document what life is like on this kind of expedition. Yes, we filmed the hell out of it.
Our videos, photos, 3D scans, and even VR mapping from the trip will be released in the coming weeks and months as we digest it all, and starting next week, we'll be running a daily video blog that we shot for the Tested Premium Community that tracked our travels. And now that we're home after a long stretch of crazy-busy-times (from moving offices to Comic-Con to getting married!), we're going to be looking at filling out the rest of the year with a regular schedule of projects, builds, and testing.
I also want to thank Jeremy, Kishore, Will, Simone, Rebecca, and Adam Isaak for picking up the slack on podcast recording and production while we've been gone. We should be back to a regular rotation next week now that we're done with traveling for a little bit. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank our premium members. Without your support, we wouldn't be able to do some of the incredible stuff we get to do. Thanks for being patient with us during these past few weeks and months--I think you're going to enjoy the stuff we have coming up.
We check out this prototype display technology that uses hundreds of pico-projects to render a life-size virtual human--like a science fiction hologram!
Sean walks us through the assembly of his 3D-printed cutaway Sith lightsaber, showing us how to put it all together from parts you can print on your own printers (files here)! Along the way, we learn about the design of the individual pieces and get some tips for printing on the Formlabs Form 2 SLA printer.
At USC ICT's Virtual Humans lab, we learn how researchers build tools and algorithms that teach AI the complexities of social and emotional cues. We run through a few AI demos that demonstrate nuanced social interaction, which will be important for future systems like autonomous cars.
When Adam was building practical props and effects for films, he worked on stunt Weebo robots for the Robin Williams comedy Flubber. Years later, prop maker Ed Zarick visits the cave with his own mechanized Weebo, an impressive feat of replica prop building!
This is super cool: a handheld CNC router that uses computer vision to let you see exactly what you're cutting through the bit, and compensates for any shaky hand movement with automatic stabilization. We visit Shaper to learn about the Origin and test out its features!
We learn how actors are digitized and turned into photorealistic models inside USC ICT's Light Stage capture system. Paul Debevec and his team at the Graphics Lab are focused on inventing technologies that create the most realistic-looking virtual people, objects, and environments. We were blown away by the capabilities of the light stage!
Making new fabrics look old and weathered is a practiced art. Doug Stewart has been working on costumes for film productions for over two decades. We chat about his work as a specialty costume maker and get a demo of his weathering process for costumes used at this year's E3.
At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, computer scientists and engineers have been tinkering with virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in between. We're given a tour of ICT's Mixed Reality Lab, where projects explore the intersections of VR and accessibility, avatars, and even aerial drones.