We meet up with our friends Freda and Xiaohui from TINKR, a local 3D printing creative studio, to tell us about the work they do and debunk a few 3D printing myths along the way.
What exactly does a 3D printing creative studio do?
Our services include conceptualisation and design, through to actual realisation of the product by modeling it in 3D and printing it out. We also provide plug-and-print services for people with readily designed files but don’t have 3D printers.
We create mini-mes as well, where we capture the 3D data of a person by scanning him/her, and printing them out in exact likeness. We’ve received requests to print breasts and recently, an exact replica of someone’s feet.
You mean 3D printing isn’t only for geeks and tech heads?
Nope. We're two girls who haven’t had any technical training, just a vested interest in design and technology. We’ve always liked tech and want to do something that’s in the creative industry. If you want to start a creative business, why not start one for the future? We see a gap between artists and geeks which we think 3D printing can bridge.
There are a handful of 3D printing startups in Singapore, but we’re the only female duo as far as we know.
What's your weapon of choice?
We're using the Makerbot Replicator 2x. We're definitely looking to upgrade to something that can print with more materials to offer a wider selection for our customers.
There's no specific model we're looking at at the moment though we’d put our money on a printer that comes with an alert system for faulty or completed prints, and a batch printing system where we can queue your print jobs at the start of the day and just have it print all day. There are people who have DIY-ed systems like that, but they’ll be awesome integrated features.
Can anything be 3D printed?
Anything you can conceive and then digitally modeled can be printed. But it’s not as simple as it’s been made out to be; you still need a combination of good design sense and a healthy dollop of engineering expertise. Although technically, anyone can simply download 3D model plans and print them.
That’s it, we’re getting ourselves a 3D printer to make our dreams take shape.
It still has its limitations. Consumer 3D printers are restricted by the type of material that can be printed while industrial printers are too expensive for the average consumer. Technological know-how is also a challenge when it comes to 3D printing; you need certain 3D modeling skills to design your own customised product.
It also takes time to get used to design objects that are 3D printer friendly, as well as coming up with solutions for objects that may not be so 3D printer friendly. Most materials are highly sensitive to heat and humidity and the plastic can warp if not monitored.
3D print anything cool lately?
We printed the Stuff awards and are moving on to do something similar for another big tech brand.
We printed a miniature Torii gate of Hakone for a client’s ROM ceremony, a collectible toy figurine (pictured) for local band Monster Cat’s new album, and we’re currently working on a customized ring for a couple’s wedding anniversary.
Favourite project to date?
Norman the Abominable Snowman for Paper Plane Co. He’s a character from one of their stories because the founder was going to North Pole and would like to have the Abominable Snowman in her photos. We had a lot of fun working on that one.
Most ridiculous 3D printer comment you've heard so far?
“You mean you put paper in and it comes out in 3D?”
There must be more...
Most people think that 3D printing happens instantaneously. For example, people get a shock when we say that it takes 10 hours to print out a full figurine. We also get a lot of enquiries with regard to what machines one should purchase. The thing is - we don’t sell machines, we’re selling a creative service.
What’s next for TINKR and company?
There is definitely a future for 3D printing in Singapore, with the government pumping money into the manufacturing sector. What we think will be a big hit for 3D printing is its entry into the consumer market, not just people who purchase 3D printers but also the kind of services 3D printing can provide for the public. There is a lot of interest in Singaporeans in 3D printing, so we'll have to wait and see.