Retail chain HEMA made its debut in the 3D printing market last year and is making an even bigger commitment to the medium now, with the introduction of a Scan Lounge to its Stadshart store in The Netherlands. The Scan Lounge is a space equipped with 68 high-resolution cameras that can be used to create 3D images of a subject. The idea being that with that data, a 3D figurine can be printed that captures the person or people in their full form, down to the last detail – including full color. From pose to pick up is between three to four weeks and starts at about $80 (€59).
This 3D portraiture is one of a variety of efforts being introduced by small businesses and manufacturers alike to capture something that is seen as missing from 2D photographic representation. However, there are tradeoffs when printing as well. As HEMA notes:
“3D scanning and printing are still new and rapidly evolving technologies. Even though we use the latest photographic techniques and software, it is not yet possible to capture everything in a 3D print.”
It’s a bit more complex than stepping into a photo booth and the considerations are not what your average user might expect from having their picture taken. The limitations are, however, fairly standard and as these types of portraits become more and more common, people will become more accustomed to the types of factors they need to take into account when having their 3D portrait captured. For example, in the pose, the person being scanned cannot have their fingers spread apart or else the printing will be too thin in that area and be highly likely to break off. Likewise, there are considerations regarding hairstyle and clothing that must be taken into account.
While none of these are particularly onerous burdens, they are all things that are not necessary to be conscious of when having a 2D image made. In other words, 3D printing could be a medium that is unique in it’s own right, rather than being simply an enhanced form of visual reproduction. As 3D printing becomes more easily accessible on a consumer level, there may be a time when you can go to the local drugstore and have your ‘image’ made and printed within an hour!
The question then becomes: what does it mean to make a portrait? There is artistry to portraiture that moves beyond capturing the exterior topography of an individual within the technical limits of a particular technology.Nicola Kalinsky of The National Portrait Gallery posits that part of what makes a portrait much more than a reproduction is who it is that makes the portrait as well as the image’s invocation of a memory or capture of an essential characteristic.
Does 3D scanning and printing preclude the idea of a maker or is it a medium in which an artist works? With the invention of the camera, many people declared that there was nothing but technical capacity required in order to make images, but that argument has long been disproved. Will 3D portraiture be able to move beyond technique? Some artists are already pushing those boundaries and I believe it won’t be long before this question is laid to rest as well.
Have you been 3D scanned and printed yet? If so, let us know your experiences within the HEMA 3D printed portraiture forum thread on 3DPB.com.