Jan 23, 2017 | By Tess

The idea of transforming a 3D printer into a 2D printing tool could seem, at first thought, a bit backwards, even un-productive. When we saw this new re-appropriation of a broken 3D printer turned into a 2D drawing machine, however, we had to reconsider our stance. Australian maker James Novak, who found himself with a defunct Solidoodle 3D printer on his hands, has created what he calls the “Robot Picasso,” a machine that can create unique 2D drawings based off of real photographs.

Many of our readers will remember that fateful day in March 2016, when 3D printer brand Solidoodle, known at its best for its affordable 3D printers, and at its worst for a decrease in printer quality and customer service, closed its doors. Despite the fact that the company stopped producing 3D printers, we did not hear much about what existing owners of Solidoodle 3D printers were doing with their defective machines. Until now.

Solidoodle Press 3D printer

Novak, who invested in a Solidoodle Press before the company went bankrupt, found himself with a 3D printer that had a higher fail rate than success rate. Rather than dump the machine, or leave it in a corner to accumulate dust, however, the innovative maker set about transforming the 3D printer into what could be one of the most artistic robots we’ve ever seen.

From a hardware perspective, the transformation seems quite simple: Novak was able to convert the 3D printer’s extrusion nozzle to fit a custom-made 3D printed mount that holds pens. But the Robot Picasso is much more than a 3D printer that can move a pen, as it has been equipped with the resources necessary for creating one-of-a-kind drawings based off of actual photographs.

Novak, who researched visual programming languages and generative design techniques for his PhD, has developed algorithms that allow the printer to essentially recognize photos and subsequently generate its own abstract, almost cubist, version of the photo, which it then draws out. He explains the process in a Kickstarter campaign for the Robot Picasso: first, a printed photo is held up to a webcam for the robot to observe, “this process lasts 10-20 seconds while he interprets what he sees with up to 500 individual lines.” Once the drawing is generated, it is saved as a DXF file.

With the DXF file, the image can be converted into G-code, which the 3D printer can read as printing instructions. The process of printing itself can take up to 30-45 minutes, as the pen-equipped mount draws out the individual lines, creating the unique image on an A4 sized board. According to Novak, the final drawing—signed and numbered by Robot Picasso—measures 164 x 135 mm.

With the Kickstarter campaign, Novak is offering interested backers the opportunity to have their own photos adapted by his transformed Solidoodle 3D printer. As the campaign reads, “Be part of a select group to receive a custom, limited edition drawing created without human influence - the "seeing," artistic interpretation and process of drawing line-by-line is all performed by machines. The outcome is always unexpected, visually interesting, and tells a story.”

The rewards for the Robot Picasso campaign, which start at about AUD $15, include a digital copy of a custom drawing (in DXF format), a print edition of the drawing that comes with the DXF file, as well as an eBook compilation of all the robot’s works (for AUD $35), and a “Curiosity Package” which includes all the aforementioned rewards plus video footage of the Robot Picasso at work (for AUD $75).

DXF file edited and enhanced via Adobe Illustrator

If you are in need of a truly unique gift for a tech or art enthusiast, you have until February 14 to take part in Robot Picasso’s Kickstarter campaign. The project has already raised its goal, so it is just a matter of making a pledge if you’re interested.



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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