Maybe you're reading this article because you are an intrigued CG artist. You have been involved with designing characters and props for movies, video games, and animations for years, or possibly only months. You have an established portfolio of designs that are helping you to find more work, but maybe there is something else out there. Maybe you'd want more from your designs aside from a cool screen saver. The countless hours on top of hours spent on each individual project deserve a little bit more respect, and I know how you can fulfill that.
3D printing is a technology that can bring your designs to life. This technology can help build your portfolio in a very "unorthodox" way that stands out from other CG artists. 3D printing is a form of manufacturing that involves the layer by layer assembly of products. In order for this technology to follow through, a design will have to be mocked up through one of various softwares. The 3D file created will be sent to a "3D printer", or the machine that physically manufactures the product. The computer on the printer will tell the ink jets, laser, nozzles, or ultraviolet rays, exactly where to begin manufacturing the product. 3D printing creates products one layer at a time in a very unorthodox form of manufacturing. This layer-by-layer process gives 3D printing almost complete geometrical independence, opposed to traditional forms of machining or CNC cutting. Products can be created in ceramics, thermoplastics like ABS, precious metals, or even full color materials. What does this mean?
CG artists can physically manufacture their designs through 3D printing. The hours of work and effort spent on projects can yield a physical model to hold in your very own hands. 3D printing isn't free, but it isn't unobtainable. Buying a 3D printer might be an option, as some printers only cost around $1,000. However, not everyone can simply throw around $1,000. Creating a 6 inch character models (dependent on the width and shape) could cost less than $100. A hollowed out model at 5" x 2" x 3" might cost $25 in full color. These models can be created through 3D printing services that exist on an international level. What comes from manufacturing your models?
Perhaps you have an interview coming up with a large corporation that may be hiring you. Of course you will print out your 2D portfolio to present, and this is very valuable. However, imagine handing your interviewer physical models of your best designs. Holding a visual model has the power to truly sell yourself, and your portfolio.
Maybe you have an interesting concept idea that people will pay for. Many people open up their own stores within these 3D printing communities offering specific character models that consumers can buy. This would be a different way to pocket some residual income from your current designs.
You just might want to have a physical model of a design that is valuable to you. The hours of hard work and effort put into creating a 3D image might have meant something to you; if you really cared about the project, maybe you want to own a piece of it. By that I mean: you might want to have your design sitting on your night stand or on your wall. You might want to hold on to your hard work... literally. It is inspiring to physically hold on to something that you put so much time and heart into; 3D printing is a way to bring a piece of you into real life. Whether you are preparing a physical portfolio as an artist or engineer, or you just want to bring your creations to life, 3D printing can help advance you in your career as a designer.