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3D Printing – a thumbs up from BMW……

An article in The Guardian by Samuel Gibbs this month reported that ‘BMW has turned to 3D printing to physically augment its car-plant workers, giving them stronger, augmented thumbs;
The 3D-printed apparel acts like support brackets for the workers’ thumbs, reducing strain and helping them to fit certain parts into the cars more easily.
Each “thumb” is created as a custom device using a portable 3D camera, which captures the unique size and shape of each line-worker’s thumb’ (The Guardian, July 4th).

3D cameras are available having been used in film & 3D TV for a number of years now and in fact even a ‘normal’ camera can be used with programs such as Autodesks’s 123D Catch App for mobile phones to generate a series of digital photographs that can be used to create 3D models for print. However, the development of affordable 3D scanning technology to capture fine detail is currently lagging behind the 3D printer revolution which is frustrating as the arrival of such scanning devices will lead to many new and exciting areas of research such as reverse engineering, online parts libraries for 3D print and 3D digital archiving.

Here at Paralogic we have been experimenting with the 3DS Sense handheld 3D scanner which is producing some fairly low resolution scans and although not very high in detail would offer one method of producing mapping data for animated characters for 3D game design and interest in this has been expressed by a local college that specializes in film and TV effects, animation and games design.

We have also developed a number of classroom exercises and teacher presentation materials for our educational customers and over the coming months we will be making these available as packs which can be purchased and downloaded in order to assist the implementation of 3D printing into education in line with the changes to the National Curriculum that come into effect from September.