Presentation at ESTS 2015

I recently attended the European Society for Textual Scholarship’s 2015 conference held at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. At this conference, I gave a presentation entitled Beyond Google Search: Editions as Dynamic Sites of Interaction. The focus of the presentation was a discussion around some of the common UI tropes and metaphors we rely upon in Digital Scholarly Editions and an examination of how these elements are applied.  The presentation consisted of a discussion around the subject of interaction design, a break down of the common tropes & metaphors along with a comparison of 14 different scholarly editions and which of the metaphors were utilised, and a brief case study involving the Letters of 1916, a project at Maynooth University with which I have had the pleasure to be involved.

While my plan is turn this presentation into a paper for the ESTS 2015 Variant, I have had some requests for presentation slides, as a few people were interested in the content I have presented. As such, I’ve included a link to a google slides version of the presentation which can be found here.

This presentation just begins to scratch the surface of my research, and I am more than happy to discuss any questions or comments you may have.  Please feel free to utilise the contact form on this blog to get in touch with me.

Happy reading!

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 7 – The Final Product

The castle is finally complete! Since the last post, I’ve added some trees to the scene and cleaned up the last of the materials.  Unfortunately, exporting the scene into sketch fab is not quite as successful as the rendered version in the 3DS Max.  For some reason, the materials used on the roofs of the various buildings do not export and neither do the materials for the trees.  However, I think its important to be able to move the model around, so I’ve decided to include the sketch fab version, even though it only looks partially complete.

The Real Final Product

The real product looks pretty good when rendered in 3DS Max.  I’ve included a number of screenshots from the rendered version below.  Hopefully, these will give you an idea of what the final product looks like in 3DS Max.

Front of Castle

Front of Castle

East Side of Castle

East Side of Castle

Back of castle. Note shadows from sunlight (which is behind castle)

Back of castle. Note shadows from sunlight (which is behind castle)

West side of castle

West side of castle

The Sketch Fab Version

Below is the version that exported to sketch fab. While this is the more “interactive” model, sadly the export process from 3DS Max doesn’t seem to play well with textures that are embedded in 3DS Max. So you can see that both the trees and the roofs of the buildings (both of which are 3DS Max built-in materials as opposed to custom materials) don’t export into sketch fab. This is unfortunately because it doesn’t give the full picture of the model, but this version does give you something to play around with.

UPDATE

I tried adding custom materials to the roofs and the foundation of the keep outset building in order to get those to render. While I don’t like the final output in 3DS Max as much as the original (and thus for the sake of the project, I’m keeping the original in tact), it does look a little bit better in sketch fab since those areas now have exported materials. I’ve included this new sketch fab version below.

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 6 – The Story

One of the things I thought that might be interesting in discussing the creation of the model is to show a sort of breakdown of how the model was built.  So I’ve taken screenshots from 3DS Max (the software I used to create the model), that shows the model as it moved through various stages of creation.

 

Building the Walls

Building the Walls

Adding the South Gate

Adding the South Gate

Adding the bend in the south wall

Adding the bend in the south wall

Adding buildings and bend in west wall

Adding buildings and bend in west wall

Creating the chapel and the north wall bend

Creating the chapel and the north wall bend

Starting the Keep

Starting the Keep

Refining the Keep

Refining the Keep

Adding More Detail to the Keep

Adding More Detail to the Keep

Further Refinements to the Keep

Further Refinements to the Keep

Adding Details to the West Buildings

Adding Details to the East Buildings

More East Building Detail

More East Building Detail

Finishing the East Buildings

Finishing the East Buildings

Once the modelling was complete, materials needed to be added to each object. This is where a lot of experimentation kicked in. In the two images below, you can see my first attempt at adding materials. While the roof material looks ok, you can see that the stone on the buildings isn’t right. Rather than looking like multiple stones forming the building, it looks like each building was carved from a single stone, which is obviously not right.

Distant view of first attempt at materials

Distant view of first attempt at materials

Close up view of first attempt at materials.

Close up view of first attempt at materials.

As I continued to experiment, I started adding some general nature (such as grass) to the scene. You can also see in the close up view that the walls of the buildings now look like individual stones; however the material on the walls looks very displaced so that needed some additional tweaking.

Scene with grass and better building material

Scene with grass and better building material

Close up of building showing better stone work.  Note poor material on wall.

Close up of building showing better stone work. Note poor material on wall.

Finally, I added a hair and fur modifier to the grass to give it a more life-like look and feel. I also cleaned up the material on the walls to make it more uniform.

More realistic grass and uniform stone material

More realistic grass and uniform stone material

Close up showing more realistic grass and stone material

Close up showing more realistic grass and stone material

Coming Up Next . . .

Up next is the final post regarding modeling maynooth castle. This post will show screenshots of the final rendering as well as a working 3D model.

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 5 – Woe to Materials

I’ve decided that Materials in 3DS Max are not my favourite thing.  In fact, I think they are my least favourite thing.  I’ve been playing around with them for the past couple of days, trying to get a stone material that looks just right.  While I’ve had some minor success with a material for the buildings, I have yet to make it look like individual stone work (currently, it looks like each building is carved from a single rough-hewn stone).

The Process So Far

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, my original thought on materials was to use a multi-subobject approach.  I would apply diffuse and bump maps using images taken of the exterior of the keep, then use secondary materials for the roof.  This approach was largely unsuccessful. I ended up rebuilding the roofs on the various buildings as other objects, so I could apply separate materials to them.  For the stone work on the buildings, I created a blend material that used an image from the castle wall as the map for the blend.  This seemed to work better as it presented more of a rough stone look.  I then applied a UVW Map modifier to each object and applied the material.  With the exception of the material creating the illusion of a single stone instead of multiple stones, the material application worked rather well.  However, when applying the same materials to my wall objects (which also had a UVW Map), the material looks painted on and doesn’t have the same texture as the buidings.  See below for an example:

material_WallBuilding

I’ve tried messing with the tile values on the UVW map for the wall objects, but that doesn’t seem to have the effect I was hoping for.  I may scrap the material all together and return to using images applied as bump, diffuse, and displacement maps in order to create a more individual stone look.  As for the walls, I suppose more trial and error is involved.  I will continue to work with the UVW map settings; I may also separate materials for the walls, so I can further control how they are applied.

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 4 – Materials & Lighting

Since my last post about Modeling Maynooth Castle, my progress has been solid but largely uneventful.  I haven’t encountered any major issues or problems outside of the normal day to day frustrations of modeling, such as paying extra attention to that one polygon that doesn’t seem to want to be shaped the right way or fixing an accidental extrusion, etc.

After making significant progress on the model itself, I decided to start applying some materials and lighting.  The lighting itself was relatively simple.  Since I’m dealing with a castle that was destroyed in the mid 16th century, I decided I was only going to use natural light.  Thus I was able to easily implement a daylight system.  While I couldn’t quite set the date of the daylight system to 1534 (the year the castle was destroyed), I was able to take it back all the way to 1583, which is the farthest back the software would calculate. I set the time of day as noon and set the appropriate latitude and longitude in order to calculate the position of the sun.  3DS Max made all of this very simplistic, and I had no issues implementing the system.

The materials have proven to be a bit trickier.  I took pictures of the current keep walls, as I hoped to use those as materials.  I pulled one of these pictures into photoshop and used the patch tool to create a seamless, tileable texture.  I think applied this texture as both a bump map and a diffuse map to a material and mapped the material to the keep.  The results are below:

keep_material1

The result isn’t bad, but I don’t feel it’s anywhere near complete. I started experimenting by applying a UVW map.  Then I decided to scrap the original material and create a multi-sub-object material that would allow me to set different materials for different areas (such as the roof, the wood paneling that is part of the roof, etc).  I also decided to create blends and use the images of the castle walls as maps for the blend.  The result ended up with the castle walls themselves looking a little cleaner:

keep_material_multiobj

I think the walls of the castle itself look a little better (ignore the giant cross shape in the middle for now.  Those are actually separate objects I haven’t applied the new material to yet).  However, I don’t think the multi-subobject approach is going to work for the roof:

keep_material1_badroof

 

As you can see, not only does the material not look different (it should have more of a tiled slate look rather than stone) but you can also see each distinct polygon where the material was applied.  I think I’m going to have to trash the roof and rebuild it so it is a separate object that I can apply its own material to.

I’m going to continue working on it to see how I can improve upon it.

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 3 – The Keep

I started modeling the keep a few days ago and felt I was making good progress.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  However, I’ve learned a very important lesson:  when doing extrusions on an object, always zoom out to make sure you didn’t accidentally destroy the geometry.  Sadly, this lesson cost me about 3 hours’ worth of work.  Thankfully, I started making regular backups of my saves; otherwise this could have been much worse.

The Process

I started the keep with just a standard cube. I then constructed small towers that went along the tops, and for the crenellations, I did what I have always done—I extruded the polygons of the cube (after converting the cube to an editable polygon). I’ve never had a problem with this. Here is what the top part of the keep (which was the area I was focused on) looked like when I noticed my problem.
Top of Keep
I then zoomed out in order to inspect some aspects of the roof of the keep (for which I was about to create the pitched roof). That’s when I noticed my problem.
Messed Up Keep
As you can see from the photo, quite a bit of the geometry of the keep is distorted. Random sections are extruded or missing. The bottom of the keep was completely distorted. I probably could have fixed it, but I decided the amount of work it would have taken me to fix it most likely would have equaled the amount of time I spent getting to that point since my last back up. So I decided to cut my losses and simply revert to my last backup.

What Went Wrong?

I’m not entirely sure where everything went wrong, to be honest. The only thing I can suspect is that I accidentally selected other polygons while I was selecting the polygons for the roof (either that or I had failed to set the height segments when converting to an editable polygon and thus was extruding the entire height of the keep as opposed to one that was supposed to be closer to 1m3.

Lessons Learned

One lesson I’m taking away from this is to always check my line segments before converting to an editable polygon, and another is to frequently check the entire object when making modifications which affect the geometry. But the most important lesson here is to create FREQUENT backups of my scene. Thankfully, this really saved me this time (as I only lost a few hours’ worth of work), so it’s definitely a lesson I have taken (and am continuing to take) to heart.

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 2 – Crafting the Walls

In my first blog on modeling Maynooth Castle, I discussed the goal of my final project for AFF621 and a little bit of the background regarding the castle itself.  As I began the process of modeling the castle, I decided the first place to start would be to model the walls, which is what I intend to discuss today.  However, before I get started, I’d like to take a few moments to discuss the planning of the model itself.

A Little Project Planning

Like some graphic design software, such as Adobe Photoshop, 3DS Max requires you to think through how the model is going to be constructed, so that you can be organise your scene.  In order to start this process, I started thinking about what kind of objects would be in my scene, and how I wanted to arrange them.  I came up with the following major items that would need to be a part of the scene:

  • the castle walls
  • the keep
  • the church
  • the gates
  • the living quarters / kitchens / etc.
  • miscellaneous buildings (such as the stables, barn, etc.)
  • the river(s)
  • misceallaneous nature (trees, grass, any other surrounding items, etc.)

Depending on how quickly I am able to execute on the model itself, I may or may not be able to complete everything, so I’ve decided to prioritise the first 5 items with the hope of adding the other objects should I have the bandwidth.

In order to facilitate this process, I decided I would keep each of the above mentioned-sections in their own layers.  This way I could easy turn off entire sections if needed (which could be helpful while fine-tuning other aspects of the scene). Additionally, by grouping them in layers, I can focus on each section at a time—very similar to how I would construct a physical model from legos or other building material(s). With these decisions made, I decided it was time to start the actual modeling process.

Constructing the Walls

I decided to start with the walls for two reasons:

  1. They would form the boundaries of the rest of the inner buildings of the castle itself
  2. They would most likely be the easiest thing to model

I decided to do a quick Google search to begin with just to see if anyone had modeled anything similar in 3DS Max and might therefore have some insight into the process of building walls.  I was lucky enough to happen upon a video that discussed how to construct a castle using 3DS Max.  I watched some of it and decided that it may be useful later, so I’ve filed it away for future use. I also found a script that was created to make the construction of walls easier.  I thought this might be the ideal script to facilitate the creation of walls, so I downloaded it and started using it in my scene.

Unfortunately, the script wasn’t quite what I was looking for.  It’s the kind of script that is great for creating brick walls, but one of the biggest problems I had is that, while it allowed me to set the number of segments for length and height, I couldn’t set the number of segments on the width.  Since I needed to create crenulations along the top of the walls, using this script would have meant manually creating individual crenulations as opposed to using some effects on the wall itself.  I also discovered the script was very computationally intensive and a single wall greatly reduced the processing power of my laptop.  Ultimately, I decided to discard the script and create my own walls from scratch.

I decided to start by creating a box that met the dimensions of the wall I was trying to construct.  I then gave the wall an appropriate number of segments for length, width, and height that would simulate brick work. For example, the south wall is 86.8 metres long, 3.51 metres wide, and 4.96 metres tall. As a result, I gave it 86 length segments, 3 width segments, and 5 height segments which makes each stone roughly 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre.  This was an arbitrary decision but one I felt was reasonable.

After drawing out the wall, I converted it to an editable polygon and then used the extrude tool to create crenulations along the top.  I decided each crenulation would be roughly 2 polygons wide and 1 polygon deep, and would be extruded by 1.016 metres.  I then built the remaining 3 walls following the same pattern.  When I was finished, the scene looked as below.  Note: each wall is color coded so I can easily keep track of what wall it is.  The south wall is red; the east wall is yellow; the north wall is green, and the west wall is blue.

Walls_Start

Next, I needed to fit the walls together.  The castle walls themselves do not form a perfect square, but rather bend at some points to create a sort of rounded, circular square.  There are also some breaks in the walls where the walls either protrude or where the walls are broken up by gates or other buildings. I accomplished this in a number of ways: by creating generalised boxes of the appropriate size as placeholders, by cutting up the walls to create the protrusions, and by using soft selection to bend sections of the walls. The outcome can be seen below.

Walls_Connect

As you can see, there was a drastic change in the state of the walls from their first construction.  It’s slowly starting to come together.

Further Struggles

One of the things I’ve struggled with a bit is the application of materials. I have some images of the castle walls themselves. I was hoping to apply them as both a bump map and a diffuse map to create the illusion of stone on the walls.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked so well.  Either the images tile too much and look fake, or they blur and, well, look fake.  This will be something I’ll have to work on more later.  I’m sure I’ll blog about it in future posts.

Next Steps

Next, I’m going to focus in on the castle keep and the enclosing walls. Hopefully this will be a little easier than the outer walls, especially now that I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks. More to come later . . .

Modeling Maynooth Castle Part 1

For my final project for AFF621 – Remaking the Physical, I was tasked with creating a 3D model of a cultural heritage object.  After considerable deliberation, I selected Maynooth Castle, which is a castle that once stood in the heart of Maynooth and was a major seat of power in Ireland from its construction in the latter part of the 12th century until its seige and destruction in 1534.  I selected it for two primary reasons: my love of ruined castles and the lack of information showing what the castle likely looked like during the height of its power, prior to its destruction.

Over the course of several blogs, I will recount the steps I have taken to produce the model and what trials and tribulations I have endured.  This is my first forray into creating 3D models, and while I’m excited to see the final output, I must admit to some trepidation regarding the scope and ambition of my project.  But I have always risen to a challenge, and this time is no different.  Hopefully, my efforts will be met with success, and by documenting my process and trials as I go, hopefully not only will I learn something from the experience, but so, too, will my readers.

Researching the Castle

The castle itself was originally built in the latter part of the 11th century and was a seat of power for the Fitzgerald family.  While I will save much of the formal history of the castle for my official report, I will note that the castle stood as a whole for nearly 300 years.  It fell in 1534 after a 10-day seige by the British, thanks to the rebellion of Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare.  While the castle was restored in 1630, it was destroyed again in the 1640s during the Irish Confederate Wars.  Since then, the castle has remained in ruins and is now run as a cultural heritage site by the State. It is open during the summer months for tours.

Unfortunately, due to the age of the castle, not much information remains regarding what it may have looked like during the height of its power, so most of my model is based on speculation of architects and other historians much more qualified than I.  I will be building my model based on their work, and my report will detail those sources in depth.

Some of the information I received was from some older documents stored in the special collections area of the Maynooth University library.  These included a map of County Kildare (which had a lovely write-up regarding the history of the castle), as well as some hand-drawn images of the castle ruins at the time of publication in 1783.  Additionally, the library was also able to provide me with a development plan that was created for the Office of Public Works in the mid 1990s that included some architectural plans that were drawn up during the castle’s first reconstruction in 1630. Additionally, this document also contained some speculation from the architects creating the development plan as to what the castle may have looked like in the 15th-16th century prior to its fall.

Looking at the Models

Another source of information was the model housed within the castle.  When Maynooth Castle was converted into a cultural heritage site, a scale replica of what the castle likely looked like was created.  This scale model is housed within the keep (which serves as a type of museum for the castle itself).  Catherine O’Connor, the supervisor of the site, was gracious enough to provide me with early access to the castle keep (which is currently closed for the season) so that I could photograph the model and take measurements of each of the buildings.  This will allow me to construct my 3D model as accurately to this model as possible.  Ms. O’Connor was also able to provide me with some additional documents that detailed an archeaological excavation of Maynooth Castle that was conducted in June of 2000. Finally, Ms. O’Connor also provided me with contact information for one of the architects who worked on the development plan.  I will be reaching out to him over the next few days in hopes that he can provide me with any further information that may be of use.

Next Steps

The next thing I will begin tackling is the creation of the model itself.  I will likely begin by trying to create the outer walls, as well as the keep.  I will be doing this from the ground up in 3DS Max.  My next post will be written after I have begun tackling some of these aspects and will detail what struggles (and hopefully triumphs) have resulted from this endeavour. Stay tuned . . .

Perils of Project Planning

For my contribution to the Woodman Diary, which is the project we are creating for Digital Scholarly Editing, I took on the role of Project Manager.  I thought I would take a few moments to discuss something that is often discussed but overlooked in any software project:  project planning.

What is Project Planning?

Project Planning, as defined by Rouse, is “a discipline for stating how to complete a project within a certain timeframe, usually with defined stages, and with designated resources.” [1] The three components—scope, schedule, and resources—mentioned by Rouse are often referred to as the “Scope Triangle” or “Triple Constraint”. The notion of the “Scope Triangle” dictates that the scope, schedule and resources form three sides of a triangle.  In the “Scope Triangle”, one of these resources is always fixed, and the other two, while flexible, move in proportion to the other.[2] For example, if schedule is fixed—meaning the delivery date of the project cannot be changed—then if additional scope (new features) are added, more resources (also sometimes referred to as budget) must be added to accommodate the increase in scope. The “Scope Triangle” is used to ensure both the stability and the overall quality the project and its deliverables.  After all, one cannot logically assume that a project, which was originally stated to take x number of months with y number of features given a budget of z, can still launch at the same time if the budget is suddenly reduced or if new features are added.

Consider this analogy. You decide to build a new home, and so you hire a company to do the work.  You agree with the company that they will build a 1,000 square foot home in 6 months for €100,000. Three months into the project, you decide 1,000 square feet isn’t big enough, and you wish to add another 500 square feet to the home.  Certainly you would expect it to cost more—and quite possibly take longer—than what was originally agreed to. However, for some reason, this notion often flies out the window with regard to software projects. Thus project managers are often brought in to ensure the “Scope Triangle” is adhered to, and the project remains on track with a high level of quality.

Perils & Pitfalls

Most think of project planning as creating Gantt charts and putting dates on deliverables. And while that is certainly a component, it is far from the only aspect. Below, I’ve listed some of the most common mistakes that can be made in regards to project planning:

  1. Thinking Too Small – project managers need to think big, and I don’t mean in regard to scope.  The biggest mistake that can happen while project planning is not considering all of the possible avenues. What if we lose some of our resources due to illness or vacations? What if the server blows up, and we need to buy a new one? What if some feature we really like isn’t technically feasible? All possible avenues need to be explored during the planning phase.  There is no scenario too far-fetched.
  2. Making Assumptions – often, we make assumptions about the projects we are working on. “The computer centre will set up that server for us.”  “That feature is very easy to implement—I’ve seen it done before.” “That software is easy to customise.” The list of examples is endless. But what if the computer centre is unable to set up the server due to their own time or resource constraints? What is the software isn’t so easy to customise or is restricted due to licensing constraints? What if that feature seen elsewhere took months to build and isn’t distributed and thus must be recreated? All of these items can have a significant impact on a project and cause it to derail.  Therefore, it is important to identify assumptions early on and plan accordingly.  Making assumptions is not necessarily a bad thing, but failing to identify them is a major problem.  If they aren’t identified, then contingency plans cannot be created.
  3. Failing to Identify Risks – every project has risks.  Some are obvious: loss of resources due to illness, scope creep (the subtle addition of new features that, while individually seem small, cumulatively add considerable scope to a project), scheduling constraints, etc.  Every project, however, has risks that are unique to the project itself.  For example, while planning for the Woodman Diary, we identified a risk regarding our software implementation.  At the time, we had yet to choose a software package for the diary, so there was a risk that the package we chose could have an impact on our schedule, as it could potentially be more difficult to implement that we assumed (also, for further emphasis, see above item regarding assumptions). Identifying risks early on allows the team to research mitigation tactics.  In fact, not only should every risk be documented, but a mitigation plan should also be created for each risk in order to identify how likely the risk is, what its impact on the project overall could be, and how the risk will be mitigated. By doing so, the team reduces the potential number of surprises that could arise during implementation.  The fewer surprises, the smoother the implementation.
  4. Forgetting the Goal – every software project has a sense of excitement about it.  The team is creating something new and many participants want to innovate or make something that has that “wow” factor.  Thus, it’s easy to get caught up in the “glitz and glamour” and forget about the goal. Whenever the team is considering adding a new feature or changing an already defined feature, the first question that should be asked is: does this change bring us closer to accomplishing the goal of the project? If the answer is “no”, then the feature should be scrapped.  It doesn’t matter how “neat” the feature might be; if it doesn’t serve the goal of the project, the feature is ultimately a distraction.  Of course, if the team answers that question with “What is the goal?”, then a much bigger problem exists.  Before project planning even begins, a goal must be clearly set out and communicated to—and agreed on by—the team.

Conclusion

Project planning is a vital process of any endeavour, especially when creating or implementing software (and ultimately, every digital scholarly edition is, at its heart, a software project).  It should never be ignored, lest the project fall to chaos and disarray. That said, it is important to remember that it is about more than just marking down due dates next to features and holding the project team to a schedule.  Project planning is also about seeing the big picture and knowing how to respond to various situations that may arise that were unexpected.  Project planning is much like warfare—considering all the various angles and developing strategies for dealing with the enemy. However, in the case of project planning, the enemy is often ourselves and our own failures to look ahead.

References

[1] Rouse, Margaret. “What is project planning?“. Whatis.com. March 2007. Web. 19 April 2015.
[2] Jenkins, Nick. “A Project Management Primer: Basic Principles – Scope Triangle“. ProjectSmart.co.uk. n.d. Web. 19 April 2015.

Further Reading

Haughey, Duncan. “Project Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide”. ProjectSmart.co.uk. n.d. Web.
Kerzner, Harold R. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, 11th Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons. 2013. Print.
Project Management Institute. “The Project Management Office: Aligning Strategy and Implementation“. PMI.org. April 2014. Web.
– – -. “The Value of Project Management. PMI.org. 2010. Web.
Sylvie, George, Jan LeBlanc Wicks, C. Ann Hollifield, Stephen Lacy, and Ardyth Broadrick Sohn. Media Management: A Casebook Approach. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. 2009. Print.

Explorations in Photogrammetry – Part 5

In the 5th and final part of my series on photogrammetry, I will discuss the process of 3D printing. For those unfamiliar with the process, 3D printing involves taking a digital object stored in a specific file format and creating a three-dimensional, solid object. Typically, the object is “printed” using some kind of plastic, although more expensive printers can utilise metal alloys.[1] The process involves creating a StereoLithography file (or STL for short) that contains a 3D model. This file can then be sent to a 3D printer and, after several hours or even days depending on the size and complexity of the object, a real world representation of the digital object can be seen.

Types of 3D Printing

There are a few different types of 3D printing:[2]

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – utilises a high powered laser to super heat and fuse together tiny particles of glass, plastic, or ceramic in order to create a 3D object.[3] Objects created with an SLS printer typically require little post processing, such as sanding or other alterations.  Also, because SLS doesn’t require the use of support structures for the object while it is being printed, it is typically faster than FDM and SLA.
  • Fusion Deposition Modeling (FDM) – creates objects by heating thermoplastics and constructing the object layer by layer.[4]  When the object is complex, the 3D printer will build scaffolding to support the structure while it is being printed (this scaffolding can then be broken off or dissolved in detergent later).  It typically supports more complex geometries and cavities than SLA or SLS.
  • Stereolithography (SLA) – like FDM, SLA builds a 3D object layer by layer.  However, the difference with SLA is that the layer is built in a liquid polymer that is then hardened by a laser (as opposed to using heated thermoplastics such as FDM).[5] Like FDM, SLA also utilises support structures while printing the object, which are then cut away once the process is complete.

3D Printing Services

A number of different 3D printing services are available.  One of the most common providers is Shapeways. While working on my models and googling for solutions with regards to questions I had about tools within the software packages, I found a number of references to Shapeways for 3D printing. Shapeways is a type of retail market that allows users to sign up as “sellers”.  They can then submit their 3D models, choose their material and have it printed. The cost varies based on the material selected.  Further, the size of the object that can be printed is also limited by material (some materials allow you to print larger items at an increased cost). You can then feature your items in the Shapeways marketplace for purchase.

Sculpteo is another 3D printing service and is quite similar to Shapeways.  With Sculpteo, however, you can opt to not sell your items in their marketplace and simply use them as a 3D printing service. Sculpteo offers a number of different materials (which influence the cost of the printing) and provide specifications for each type of material that include minimum sizes and specifications for a model should that material be selected.

iMaterialise is another common 3D printing service. Unlike Sculpteo and Shapeways, iMaterialise also offers student discounts which is certainly an incentive for cash-strapped students such as myself. They offer 17 different materials along with a number of finishes.  Additionally, they also offer a comparison tool where a user can compare the various types of materials on offer and see the differences between them.  Their process is very straightforward, and they provide a considerable amount of information in an easy-to-consume format.

My Selection

As for my selection, I chose to use the 3D printer on campus, which is housed at the library.  This choice was made strictly for sake of convenience.  I was able to provide my lecturer with the 3D object.  He then uploaded the file to the 3D printer and set the appropriate sizes.  The cost of this effort was covered by my department, so I had no out of pocket expense.

However, had the option of the Library printing been unavailable, I most likely would have chosen iMaterialise as my 3D printer.  While the student discount was certainly a mark in their favour, the overriding reason was the presentation of information.  As mentioned above, all of the information regarding the different materials was easily presented, and I really liked the comparison tool, which allowed me to fully understand the differences between the different types of materials.  The easy to find specification information for each material provided me with all of the information I needed for my model to ensure the process would happen smoothly.

Conclusion

3D printing is certainly an emerging technology and is being leveraged today more than ever.  It is useful in the rapid production of prototypes and also can provide for unique marketing and economic opportunities for small businesses (as evidenced by the marketplaces popularised on Shapeways and Sculpteo). For the purposes of my explorations in photogrammetry, 3D printing offers a way for me to reflect on my 3D model in a real, tangible way (as opposed to only viewing it on screen).  I can use the 3D printed version and compare it to the real version and see where I might make improvements in the future.

3D printed objects can also provide value within the sphere of Cultural Heritage.  By creating a 3D printed object of an ancient piece of pottery, we can allow for the general public to closely examine the object without risk of damaging something that is irreplaceable.  In this same regard, 3D objects can also enhance museum or cultural heritage exhibitions by creating more immersive experiences. These types of experiences should continue to be explored and leveraged whenever possible as they raise awareness of Cultural Heritage and the Humanities as a whole.

References

[1]Casting aluminum parts directly from 3D printed PLA parts“. 3ders.org. 25 Sept 2012. Web. 3 April 2015.

[2]What Is 3D Printing“. 3dprinting.com. Web. 3 April 2015.

[3] Palermo, Elizabeth. “What is Selective Laser Sintering“. Livescience.com. 13 August 2013. Web. 3 April 2015.

[4]FDM Technology: 3D print durable parts with real thermoplastic“. Stratasys.com. Web. 3 April 2015.

[5]Stereoligthography“. Materialise.com. Web. 3 April 2015.