Jun 4, 2016 | By Tess

Some of our readers may remember a particularly zany Groupon deal that popped up around mother’s day, in which members were offered the unique chance to send their mothers a 3D printed life-sized version of themselves for the price of $30,000. Well, while most of us may have thought that was a wild but very expensive idea, one startup really took it to heart and has used it as inspiration for their own service: 3D printing life size replicas of people for the much more reasonable cost of $3,000.

The initiative is a collaboration between New York based Body Labs and design firm Voodoo Manufacturing, who realized that they too could make realistic looking, life-size models of people for much less that $30,000 with the help of Body Labs’ innovative 3D scanning technologies, and 3D printing. Voodoo Manufacturing’s co-founder Jonathan Schwartz demonstrated how the life-size models were made by having his own body 3D scanned, 3D printed into 88 separate segments, and reassembled. The results are uncanny.

The individual parts were 3D printed at Voodoo Manufacturing’s factory in Brooklyn, New York, where the company houses 150 MakerBot 3D printers. "At Voodoo Manufacturing, we use desktop 3D printers with build volumes of roughly 11" x 6" x 6", so it's not quite possible to print out a full-size, 6'1" version of myself on a single printer," Schwartz explained. "Thankfully, without feeling any actual pain, my body model was cut into 88 unique pieces, each piece small enough to print on a single 3D printer. These pieces were then individually "sliced" (or prepared) for printing using our in-house cloud-slicer. The key point here is that instead of having to manually prepare each of these 88 files, waiting for your computer to generate the .gcode the printers run on, we were able to offload all of this computing to the cloud. It made it a lot easier and faster."

"One benefit of doing this rather than trying to print out the entire body on a single larger printer is that we can now parallelize the printing of all 88 unique pieces across 88 separate printers. By doing this, you're speeding up the manufacturing time by close to 30x. While cutting up the model, we added labels and pin holes to the interior of the pieces so that we could easily assemble them once printed. Think of a big puzzle," Schwartz added.

Impressively, and because of the high number of 3D printers at work, the parts for Schwartz’s life-size replica were 3D printed in under 24 hours. In total, it took 623 printer-hours and used 14.7kg of plastic to 3D print the entire model.

The body scanning process is also worth noting, as Body Labs’ 3D scanning and modeling capabilities are not your run of the mill 3D scanning technologies. That is, Body Labs’ advanced 3D scanning system incorporates research from Brown University in Rhode Island and from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany. What is special about the startup’s 3D scans are that once they are generated into 3D digital models, the figures can become animated, and can be moved at will.

Here is how they did it:

It begins with a 3D body scan. There are many types of 3D scanners, but the general idea is that a scan produces a 3D "point-cloud" that digitally represents the object being scanned. In the same way a camera collects light and color data on a per-pixel basis, a 3D scanner collects the XYZ coordinates of physical points in 3D space. As you can see below, 3D scans can be noisy and missing data in areas where the scanner's view was obstructed. Most importantly, the computer understands nothing about the subject of the scan -- all it sees is a collection of 3D points, whereas you and I can clearly tell that it's a human with arms, legs, and so on.


Once you have a 3D scan, Body Labs processes the collection of 3D points into something the computer can understand using their statistical model — which is trained with machine learning and is composed of the world's most robust database of human shape and pose. The result is what you would call a "body model".


A body model is a clean, complete, semantic model of my exact body geometry that the computer can interpret and interact with. For the purpose of this project, it was critical to use a body model rather than a scan, since the scan itself isn't 3D printable, and furthermore, would have been horribly noisy -- loaded with scan artifacts that aren't even part of my actual body. Additionally, using their statistical model, they were able to automatically place small bumps on the surface of my body, representing accurate anthropometric landmarks that can be used as reference points for taking measurements and the like.

These 3D scanning capabilities have the possibility to open a number of doors in terms of custom design. In fact, Body Labs has even partnered with the U.S. military to conduct research and create a database of soldiers’ bodies for the purpose of designing custom fitted gear. Additionally, and this goes without saying, the animated digital models could be very beneficial for the fashion industry, specifically in the design of custom consumer clothing, as the pieces can not only be made to fit, but can be virtually tested through a range of motion. Other applications for the advanced 3D scanning technologies are in the gaming and animation industries.

All that to say, while a $3,000 life-size 3D printed mannequin of yourself would be an awesome gift or make an eye-catching center piece in a room, Body Labs and Voodoo Manufacturing are also hoping to reach out to some industries that could benefit from and utilize life-size and accurate human models.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Brett Bellmore wrote at 6/6/2016 9:25:31 PM:

There are people I might want a 3d printed full sized replica of, but myself? Not a chance.

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