Fabricate Yourself Pieces

Fabricate Yourself

Fabricate Yourself is a project that documented the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction Conference. Usually we think of documentation in terms of text, photography and video, but given the tangible theme of the conference we decided to engage the community by capturing and fabricating small 3D models of attendees. This enabled us to build a tangible model of the event and fabricate it piece by piece during the conference.

Capturing a 3D mesh

Attendees firstly capture their favorite pose using a Microsoft Kinect. The depth image from the Kinect is processed into a mesh and displayed onscreen in real-time. At any time they can capture the mesh and save it as an STL file.

On screen mesh display

Dovetail joints are automatically added to the side of the models so they can be snapped together. This allows multiple models to be connected to form a larger overall model.

A fabricated body

The STL files were printed using a Dimension uPrint 3D printer kindly provided by Stratasys.

Dimension uPrint

Below you can see the models packed on to the 3D printing base. The printer was working night and day during the conference as we kept it fed with numerous models created by attendees.

3D printed pieces straight out of the printer

As we wanted to be able to fabricate a large number of models, we kept the size of the pieces down to approximately 3x3cm.

Close up of the 3D printed pieces

To print at the 3x3cm size we only needed to use one quarter of the full Kinect resolution. Below are renderings of the models created by attendees, as you can see they are quite low resolution due to the print size.

TEI 2011 Attendees

For those interested, a render of a full resolution model is shown below. The holes are due to occlusion of the projected IR light and general depth camera noise.

Full resolution STL model rendering

Finally below is an image of all the models we managed to print during the conference (and several print jobs we ran after it).

Fabricated models

Ideally we would like to be able to produce these much much faster. Despite the long print times, people would return frequently to check if their model was finished. The excitement of creating something and instantly seeing the results is something we are all familiar with; be it with Polaroid cameras or Purikura stickers. Unfortunately for 3D printing it seems we are still some way off this reality.

Created by Karl D.D. Willis.
The project took place during January 2011 in Funchal, Portugal.
Software developed using openFrameworks.
Thank you to Ian Oakley, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, Mark Gross and Cheng Xu for getting this project off the ground and keeping it running during the conference.
Also a big thank you to Stratasys for providing the 3D printer.
Photos from the venue courtesy of TEI 2011 and Brian Lim.


  1. Posted February 27, 2011 at 7:55 am | #

    This is one of the neatest things I’ve seen using 3D printing in a while. I will be using it as a reference for Are You Musing soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. eight
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm | #

    This could have at least one orthogonal use. Do you intend sharing the code? Thanks.

  3. Jon Trusler
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm | #

    This is a really cool idea. We have been playing with hacking the kinect for one of our classes, but hadn’t really thought of outputting it into the Rapid Prototype machine…

  4. Posted February 28, 2011 at 9:48 am | #

    This is really cool! Wow. I wish I could know more about how it all works.

  5. Melkhor
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm | #

    great job….some funny but more usual idea than some kind of inutile API….imagine….a new kind of signature…lol…and with some VirtualRealty softwares we can also see a lot of kind of info like airtag you know..!!!…it could be funny for social…imagine…like andywaroll you create your own images as a painting….lol..but if you if somebody make an API for this kind of tags reading you can see other things in VR….

  6. Posted February 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm | #

    Make business cards next!

  7. Posted March 2, 2011 at 10:34 am | #

    Amazing! Great idea. Imagine the finished product in ceramic tile!

  8. Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:50 am | #

    Wow! Will the software be made available? I’d love to try this with my Kinect and MakerBot.

  9. Karl DD
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm | #

    Regarding a software/source release – we are currently still working on the software and will have more news on this at a later date.

  10. Andreas Fuchs
    Posted March 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm | #

    This is such a brilliant idea. A friend and I have taken the liberty of trying to attempt to do something very similar with a makerbot and a slightly altered mode of operation. I’ll let you know when we have something tangible (-:

  11. Posted March 6, 2011 at 5:13 am | #

    If you release this as open source people will help refining this and make it more awesome and automated. This is REALLY extremely neat for conferences where you both show people what 3D printing can do, and can give them something customized and personal. Remember that with an Ultimaker or any other DIY 3D printer the materials are very cheap, so you could easily give away the tiles after the show. Also, I’d suggest adding an Automated Build Platform that Makerbot industries designed. This way you could continuously print out these tiles.

    I also like the product hacking aspect, using the off the shelf kinect with your own scripts written based on open source tools. An open source 3D printer RepRap or Ultimaker should really play well with such a solution and could be a streamlined process.

  12. Posted March 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm | #

    Beautiful project. I love the way the blocks snap together :) The live preview is also really smart.

    I’ve been working on something similar for an upcoming meetup at MakerBot Industries here in Brooklyn, and I’m trying to take advantage of the botfarm by doing lots of larger prints in parallel. I’m curious how much time it took to print yours on the dimension.

    For anyone interested in trying out an app like this for themselves, I have one on github. (KinecToStl)

  13. Posted April 6, 2011 at 4:46 am | #

    Great project.Kudoos.

    But I am amazed by the music… who’s is it (what’s the track?)
    Gazie mille!

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