ENTRIES TAGGED "kinect"

Printing Plastic Tchotchkes Was Fun, but MakerBot Was Just Too High-Maintenance

Breaking up with MakerBot

I’ll never forget the day I first met MakerBot. It was August 1, 2012 when he*—a bright, shiny first-generation Replicator—arrived at our Cambridge, MA, office, greeted by screams of delight by a throng of fans. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated and star-struck: MakerBot’s reputation preceded him. He was a rockstar in the DIY community, a true maverick of a machine, ushering in the “Wild West of 3D printing” among our sedate sea of MacBook Air laptops running Adobe InDesign. All we had ever made here before were PDF files, but with MakerBot humming cheerfully in the lounge next to the kitchen, that had all changed. We were now maker-magicians, spinning ABS thread into gold.

At first, it was hard to get any quality time with MakerBot. I’d come into the office in the morning, and he’d already be surrounded by three or four groupies, who were browsing the catalog at Thingiverse, selecting a fresh set of STL models to print: from Mario and Batman to Mayan Robot.


The T-Rex (far left) and Barack Obama figurine (bottom-right) were made with glow-in-the-dark ABS thread (hence “Glowbama”).

But MakerBot didn’t just allow me and my coworkers to print out other people’s models; he offered us the promise of designing our own plastic masterpieces. He came packaged with the open source software ReplicatorG, which provides a nice GUI for doing simple modifications on existing models (scaling, rotating, etc.). ReplicatorG isn’t a tool for constructing models from scratch, however, so I also started experimenting with other 3D rendering applications like Blender, MeshLab, and OpenSCAD.

I was interested in the possibilities in transforming 2D photos into 3D models that MakerBot could print, so I started experimenting with a Python tool called img2scad, which can convert a JPEG image file into a .scad file (convertible to a compatible STL file with OpenSCAD) by transforming each pixel in the image to a rectangular prism whose height is directly proportional to how dark/light the pixel is. When this SCAD model is printed, the output is a photograph embossed into a sheet of plastic. Pretty cool—although, in practice, the results were somewhat lackluster since much of the detail captured in the subtle shading differences among pixels in the source JPEG didn’t get preserved in the conversion to prisms.
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Four questions about Microsoft with Mary Jo Foley

Mary Jo Foley on what’s on the horizon for Microsoft in 2012.

Long-time Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley tells us what to expect with Windows 8, Metro design guidelines, and the Kinect SDK for Windows.

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Developer Week in Review: Start your lawyers!

Developer Week in Review: Start your lawyers!

If the lawsuit fits, the Kinect SDK for Windows arrives, and IPv6 day fails to excite.

The legal community continued to feed off IP disputes among software giants, Microsoft brings the Kinect SDK to Windows, and the web switches IPv6 on for a day, but did anyone notice?

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Developer Week in Review

Developer Week in Review

Google takes the moral middle ground, Hollywood turns to Turing, and an April Fool's gag turns real.

In the latest Developer Week in Review: Google tries to bulk up its patent portfolio, filmmakers are taking a look at the life of an early software pioneer, and researchers decided to turn an April Fool's joke into reality.

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Video pick: The inevitable merging of Kinect and “Minority Report”

Video pick: The inevitable merging of Kinect and “Minority Report”

Kinect + open drivers + MIT = the future of UI.

A marriage of Kinect and the creativity of MIT has led to this: The first baby steps toward "Minority Report"-inspired interfaces.

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