One of the most exciting things about the MakerBot Digitizer is the ability to bypass 3D modeling software altogether. Software is great for blocky shapes like houses, and for complex, algorithmic shapes like fractals, but not so great for organic or irregular forms. No matter how good a GUI is, there are no manipulators we know better than our own hands. With the help of a MakerBot Digitizer, we can make digital 3D models from clay.
I made a small model head out of Roma Plastina modeling clay. This is an Italian plastiline that will stay soft and pliable until it’s fired. Since it’s non-reflective and not too dark, it shows up really well to the scanner. Make sure you get grades #1 or #2 because the #3 and #4 grades are hard to work with— much less mushable. If you’re getting a MakerBot Digitizer, pick some up at your local art supply shop and start modeling stuff, so you’ll be ready when your Digitizer arrives. If you can’t find Roma Plastilina, other modeling clay should also work. Besides making models, you can also use this clay to help hold up challenging things that don’t have a flat base.
I spent about ten minutes making the head. Sculpting is not easy but I’m no professional, and I’m sure you could do something this good or better. I put it right in the center of the MakerBot Digitizer’s turntable, enjoyed the lovely noise made by the machine as it turns, and waited about twelve minutes for it to scan. The Digitizer software automatically filled holes in the mesh to make it watertight, but also left some light striping (above, right). I opened the model in MeshMixer, a free tool from Autodesk, and used the smooth function to smooth it out (above, left).
Here is the model and it looks great as a 3D print! If I were a sculptor or animator, I could make multiple heads with different facial expressions to use in stop motion animation. It took 10 minutes to sculpt the head, 12 minutes to scan it, and 2 hours to print it with a raft and support. When it was done, I shared it on Thingiverse!