Project Blue Sky lets people get close to 3D printing

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3D printing is we are being told going to change the way we live but relatively few people realize the technology exists or at least don’t know how far it has developed unless they are involved in related industries.

Those people visiting the Burning Man festival in Nevada this year though will get a prime example of what the technology can do and how powerful it can be, not least when combined with 3D scanning that will be in use as well.

Housed in a dome at the site attendees at the festival will go in and then be scanned, using Kinect technology: made for Xbox but with the right software working as easy to use 3D scanners connected to PCs.

That’s all the attendees have to do really, having been scanned they go off around the festival and enjoy themselves, except they will be given a transponder to take with them, like those used in some fast food joints to tell you when your orders ready. When one of the festival visitors transponder starts to buzz this means their 3D printing is ready: upon returning to the dome they will be handed a statue of their own body an exact replica.

The replica will be 3D printed directly from the scan of the person’s body recreating every lump and bump in miniature.

The dome is setup by ReAllocate and they are keen to show off what the 3D printing and scanning technology can do with the hope that some will be inspired to come up with their own business ideas. Following Burning Man the dome is going out on tour and heading to some of the United States’ most economically depressed areas.

How practical is it to imagine that people seeing 3D printing in action will actually be able to turn the technology into their own business?

Even with the ideas people will need at the very least to be able to come up with deigns on their computers or scan them in and edit them ready for printing. Software isn’t too much of a problem as there is open source CAD software available and open source software to send a CAD design to print. What about the hardware though, a computer doesn’t need to be a super computer to send a CAD file to print but does need to be fairly up to date and powerful for larger files. As for the scanner a Kinect scanner can be used, bought for around $200 and open source software obtained for free. As for the printer itself it is now possible to buy entry level printers for around $800 or you can buy the parts for a Rep Rap printer and assemble it yourself for less than $400.

This may be a lot of money still for a lot of people but to get yourself setup manufacturing your products it is incredibly small amount, with the possibility of community groups or groups of friends putting funds together to get a printer or people being able to get grants or small business loans it isn’t out of the question that it is these economically deprived, yet creatively minded neighborhoods we may see innovative 3D printing based business models coming from.


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