Friday, 26 September 2014

Wiktor Kidziak - Colour 3D prints

These two guys were designed by Wiktor Kidziak while studying at UCL, 2014. 

I am not sure what they represent. The forms remind me of trees growing on an exposed hillside, leaning away from the prevailing wind. They also appear to be walking in the image below. As for the colour they remind me of marble mosaic cubes swept up in a vortex or whirlwind.

Wiktor has worked closely with 3D printers in the past and his confidence in the media shows in the ambition of the project. 

The parts were generated using parametric design tools including SoftImage XSI. 

There is something very edible about these prints. Certainly they we very satisfying to make and proved quite photogenic too.

For more information about colour 3D printing at Lee 3D please visit

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A smashing new art work!

When Adam gave us the brief for his new work titled "You & Me", I was not just taken aback, I was simply shocked. 

He showed us a sketch of the piece and explained that we would print two identical parts but one would be broken up and stored in a large glass vessel. The two parts "You & Me" would then stand together making up the whole artwork.

I spend all my working life trying not to break the work, from consideration of print files to careful handling of parts, our mission is not to damage, not to break, to deliver the cleanest, smartest, most blemish free part that we can. This even goes to the extent of mentally rehearsing the whole process on the way in to work each morning. So it really goes against the grain to make a piece and then wilfully break it.

It goes further, each of these pieces are over 700mm tall and require four full machine builds to make. Making parts of this size that fit tightly together, retain good colour and generally avoiding defects is a real challenge. It really, really goes against the grain to make a piece as monumental as this and then break it.

You & Me from Adam Nathaniel Furman on Vimeo.

For a time I tried to persuade Adam to consider less violent alternatives but I quickly saw that he was resolved on the matter. 

Over several weeks we did the work and made the parts, finished and assembled the two sculptures. Then the time came the artist stood lump hammer in hand, paused, took a deep breath and demolished one of the pieces.

Despite my reservations the end result proved a real treasure. Standing next to the rather majestic whole piece, the glass vessel came to life when filled with bits of its broken other. The pair stand well together.

This kind of high stakes poetry is not you average 3D print job but then Adam Nathaniel Furman is not your average customer.  You & Me is in many ways the culmination of years of Adam's output of amazing and colourful 3D printed designs, many of which we have had the pleasure of helping to bring into being. As a physical object the ambition of this piece and the final result are beyond anything that I have been involved with in this business. But this is the work of a poet and an artist too, the title, the initial sketch, the idea, the design and the execution. A work of poetry encapsulated in a work of art, recorded in a moment of theatre. Bravo Adam!

You or Me? Detail of upper parts.

Two sculptures together

After the action

You & Me

You & Me was exhibited at London's Hospital Club in 2014.

For more information about Lee 3D's colour 3D printing service visit

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Design Studio 13 - 2014

This year we printed a number of models for architecture students at Westminster University and in particular for diploma Design Studio 13. 

The project was set in a development zone in Shenzhen. The brief seemed pretty open, located within an area with no existing context and produced a wide range of proposals. Three of the DS13 projects are featured below. There were many other 3D printed models on display across the show and many of them interesting in their own right. 

Perhaps the most intriguing was the Anything Factory designed by Bryan Ratzlaff whose scheme calls for a multi-storey block split into 3 parts dividing logistics, data services and production. Interestingly Bryan previously worked as a 3D print production engineer and understands commercial 3D printing workflow, he also know to model details to the exact capability of the ZPrinter which shows in the detail of the model.

The premise for the project is the notion that 3D printing can shift manufacturing from far flung factories to local made on demand products. So the design speculates on a future where large machines are centralised in corporate additive manufacturing centres. Presumably an array of technologies producing parts that are assembled locally or sent out for assembly. 

Models printed using limited colour; white, grey and black. 

A 2D illustration of the concept

Image showing the surface texture modelled to the capability of the printer with a 1mm black rail representing the conveying line weaving between departments delivering consumables to machines and bringing creations back for inspection and shipping. This black rail is carefully modelled to pick up support from the structure enabling the 3D printer to produce this fine detail running through the core of the building.

Buildings will undoubtedly be built specifically to house additive manufacturing which often requires specialist environmental servicing in a similar way to conventional factories and labs. What would a suitable building typology for additive manufacturing look like? What kind of products would such a centre produce? What materials would they need to store? Could an additive manufacturing centre design and build itself? Will it require human intervention?

Certainly a project that asks as many questions about the future of additive manufacturing as it answers. Quite where this leaves the personal 3D printer is not addressed. It would seem to me that large multi material commercial 3D printers will always out compete the capabilities of the personal printer but that does not mean there will not be a place for both. 

Alexander Sun, who we bumped into at the opening night of the China Design Centre, printed a 1:2000 space frame as part of a huge shipping terminal - the 8th Wonder Cruise Terminal. Ambitious to the point of gratuitous engineering, an overwhelming city entrance or modern day triumphal arch, a proclaimed "international spectacle" and a statement of Chinese confidence.

The geometry of this model would usually cry out for printing in Nylon on an SLS machine. So this is not your typical plaster printed model but the result looks great. Personally I prefer the opacity of plaster models compared to the light absorbing Nylon material but I certainly acknowledge the increased strength and resilience of Nylon. In this case Alex did not have time to get the model made on SLS and opted for plaster. The part size of the structural members was 0.9mm diameter. 

The red ship was printed by Alex on a filament extruder. He also showed some very small scale master plans printed on his home machine. For student work or for any architect these machines can make a convincing contribution to presentations.  They are slow and cannot print all geometry but I expect to see a lot more extruded building models in future.

Ryan Kingsnorth's law court designed to promote openness and transparency in the functioning of the law in China. An example of British meddling in other people's business? An ironic statement on British law and trial's held in secret? From my cynical view I see this "transparent" building quickly surrounded by security fencing (for the best of reasons). Is architecture really able to influence human behaviour in this way.  Humans have a way of  shrugging off buildings that do not fit their requirements and replacing them or moving (back) to ones that do.

Anyway from a presentational point of view this model exhibits a nice use of minimal 3D printing in a less costly but highly effective context model. We often have clients requesting 1:200 models because that gives the level of detail they expect from sketch models made in the office from card and foam. I am not suggesting that 1:1000 is always a good scale for detail models but with 3D printng the smaller scales can show a great deal of design detail. 

Lee 3D was proud to contribute towards DS13's final show along with PLP Architecture, Allies and Morrison, Urban Future Organisation, Dust Architecture and Base Associates.

For more information about Lee 3D please visit

Friday, 2 May 2014

3D Printing the KREOD pavilion

KREOD produced a trade pavilion for the London Olympics and plans to do the same for Brasil 2016. Lee 3D produced a model of KREOD's London pavilion which will initially be exhibited at the new China Design Centre which launched on the 1st May 2014. 

The 3D model of the pavilion was made using tools such as Rhino, Grasshopper and Evolute. This very neat structure naturally lends itself to 3D printing with the finest of margins. In this case the main construction is made up of elements that are 0.7mm in thickness. This allows a good amount of light to pass through the model expressing the geometry and the design intent.

The pavilion is made up of three moveable pods

The pavilion in the closed position

The ZPrinter 650 used to build these parts even picks up the floor detailing with gaps of just 0.125mm. Of course it is not all down to the machine. These parts are very fragile until they hardening resin is applied and require delicate handling and a certain amount of experience to remove powder from the surface of the parts with out breaking the models. Once hardened the parts can be handled with ease. 

The pods connected end to end
Interior view
KREOD's Chun Qing Li was suitably impressed and I think a little bit relieved when he came to pick up the model on the day before the China Design Centre launched. Lee 3D is now looking forward to working with KREOD to produce models of the proposed Brasil pavilion which will first be shown at the Clerkenwell Design Week later this month.

The China Design Centre showcases the unique design vision emerging from a country with a long history and rich culture, and whose dynamic economy is generating a new wave of talent in Architecture, Art and Craft, Furniture, Products and Materials. 

Terry Farrell speaking at the grand opening
of the China Design Centre in London

China Design Centre -

For more information about Lee 3D visit

Monday, 21 April 2014

3D printed art - a pointless exercise?

Making art pieces using a 3D printer may in some respects seem a pointless exercise. "won't it just get 3D scanned and copied?" is a common response. If you can copy it then it is not unique and it has less inherent value.

In theory yes you could scan and 3D print a copy of a 3D printed artwork, but there are a number of reasons why this is not a likely outcome. Some reasons for this are:
  • A functional prototype is finished to a different standard to an art work. In one the physical attributes of the part are key where as the other surface finish is key. Achieving quality surface finish is likely to be achieved more with human labour than with the 3D printing system alone. All 3D printing currently requires post processing which usually involves physical human input and additional processes that make parts unique. With colour 3D printing, parts needs cleaning up and a strengthening resin applied and possibly further finishing to protect the part. Not all colour 3D printer technicians use the same techniques and finishes and each produces parts that have a distinct appearance to the trained eye.
  • 3D Scanning an artwork is likely to be difficult, the presence of occlusions would mean that it would take a lot of time would be needed with the piece. Some areas of parts may not be possible to scan. You could not just scan an artwork while wandering around a gallery. The quality of scans makes it difficult to reproduce a part to to the same standard as the original. 
  •  3D Print technology is constantly changing after 5 to 10 years it would be difficult to find an original 3D printer running the right materials to reproduce a part. After 20 years it would be almost impossible. 

It would certainly be possible to make an imitation 3D print, but it would be as difficult to make a true copy of a 3D printed art piece as it is of a traditional print or even a contemporary painting. It could be done but it would not be easy. It would take an amount of time and expense that would raise the bar to a counterfeiter undertaking this work. Considering that most art pieces take many years to rise in value it may become more difficult to achieve as pieces rise in value and technology becomes obsolete.

Techniques that may be used to make more difficult for counterfeiters include adding signature or watermark voids into the part that cannot be seen without special equipment, adding unique chemicals to binders or resins, inserting RFID tags etc. 

Many of the 3D printed pieces that we made for Adam Nathaniel Furman's "Identity Parade" will be on public view at the Hospital Club from 22nd April for 2 months. You can make up you own mind how easy or difficult it would be to reproduce this amazing collection.

The Hospital Club
Endell Street

For more information about Lee 3D visit

Thursday, 20 February 2014

3D printing - its all about the service

It is a common mistake with 3D printing to get distracted by the technology and pay too little attention to the process and the outcome.

The mechanised action of the 3D printing process is a very simple one. The human processes of converting a 3D software model to a physical model using a 3D printer is a more complex process. The principle is straightforward but there are many ways for a simple job to go wrong.

Our True Value
Our job as 3D print service providers is to protect the customer from the many opportunities for human error that exist along the path from digital to physical model. Errors in files, unrealistic print geometries, inappropriate materials, failed builds, poorly printed parts, broken parts, parts that arrive late, incorrectly sized and scaled and a whole bunch of other things that can go wrong along the way. Knowledge gained from years of experience doing this single operation over and over again is what the customer is really paying for when they commission work from Lee 3D's service bureau. 

Success Through Service
As a small company, we are keenly aware that helping our clients to be successful in the long run ensures our success. As a service company repeat customers are an affirmation of our success. Enough said.

Understanding Customers 
As we have entrenched architectural backgrounds at Lee 3D, we really do appreciate the time it takes to get design work done and out the door.  So when the client calls a meeting at almost no notice with their overworked architect, we are ready to pull out all the stops to get a model on the table for the meeting.

Incremental Improvements
When you think you know what you are doing it can be easy to get stuck in the same old way of doing things.  Keeping an open mind and being willing to take risks allows those incremental improvements.  And owning the business certainly sharpens the instinct to innovate. 

And the award goes to...

To find out more about Lee 3D visit or call George on 07563 243 891

3D printing in architecture - update

The ever changing world of 3D print truly is a dizzying place at the moment. Late last year Fripp Design announced a full colour silicon based printer. Recently, I heard of the Mark One which allegedly 3D prints in Kevlar, carbon and glass fibre. 3D Systems recently announced 3D printers that print in candy, chocolate, ceramic and a full colour plastic 3D printer. Stratasys announced that the Connex3 will print multi materials in a palette of colours.

And yet with all this change the old ZPrinter range that was designed by ZCorporation and acquired by 3D Systems two years ago is still the number one 3D printer for many architectural models. What is it that makes this printer continue to hold this position?

The ZPrinter 650 (relaunched by 3D Systems as the ProJet 660) has three significant features that lend it to making architectural concept models:

Quite simply, the machine makes same day or next day models. The longest build you could print would be completed in about 20 hours.

This means architects can design right up until the night before a presentation and have a model in their meeting in the morning.

This machine has a build size of 380 x 250 x 200(z)mm, giving a footprint a little smaller than the A3 paper size.

This allows a good size architectural model to be printed in a single build. Larger models can be tiled to make larger models.

This may seem an odd characteristic. This gives two important advantages over other machines. Firstly, powder is self supporting so you do not need to build a support structure and then remove it afterwards. Secondly, parts can be hollowed thus reducing the amount of material used in the model.

Self supporting means just about any geometry can be created and hollowing parts mean much lower costs.

Oh, and it is a full colour printer too. Actually, most of the models we print are white but colour models photograph better!

3D printed at Lee 3D on ZPrinter 650

To find out more about 3D printing of architectural models visit or call George on 07563 243 891

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

3D scanned and printed figurines

The last year has seen a proliferation of companies offering to scan and 3D print figures. As a 3D print service bureau, Lee 3D has been asked to print figures for a number of businesses selling these services. In the same period we have had a large number of enquiries from entrepreneurs looking into this as a business opportunity. With the availability of low cost scanning systems it would seem that interest in this business opportunity is only going to increase. 

From our experience it is clear that there is a wide range of prices being quoted to end customers for figurines. Famously Asda offered a promotional 3D scanned product from £40 and certainly at the other end of the range costs are in the thousands. This blog attempts to give an indication as to what might cause such a wide variety of prices .

Creating 3D scanned and printed figures is made up of three distinct steps. These are scanning the figure, preparing the data and 3D printing the figurine. The middle step is the part that probably makes the biggest difference to the overall cost and also to the final quality of the part. 

3D Scanning Figures
Currently there are three main methods used to scan a figure, though new scanners and techniques are appearing at regular intervals. One process uses an array of fifty or more SLR cameras arranged around the subject. All cameras take a picture simultaneously and the 3D form is created from the digital images using a process known as photogrammetry. The second method of capture is using a hand held laser scanner that is moved in across and around the subject to build up a cloud of points in space that represent the figure. Thirdly a scan can be made using the structured light capture process. This requires perhaps 20 or more separate captures of the subject to build up a 360 degree physical model.

For the person being scanned there is a difference in the experience between these processes. For the photogrammetry route the subject stands in the center of the a ring of cameras and the image is taken instantaneously. The hand held laser and structured light methods requires more time and may require the subject to hold their pose for quite some time.

3D scanning is probably a bit like photography 100 years ago. In many old photographs people look very stiff, partly because they had to stand still for the required exposure time. Similarly the relationship between photographer and 3D scan operator is essential to get the subject into a relaxed pose that will also work for 3D printing. It has become typical for subjects to be asked to hold hands against their bodies for two good reasons. Hands are notoriously difficult to scan and exposed fingers easily break off both in the 3D printing process and afterwards. So there is an art to getting a person into a comfortable pose - with their hands protected.

3D Scan Data Clean Up
To get any level of quality in the resulting 3D print, time needs to be spent on data clean up. A skilled artist may be able to produce something passable in an hour or so. To get good results will take half to a full day. To produce exceptional 3D scan work, the data will be captured in sections, stitched together, details may be physically remodeled, colour touched up and corrected. Exceptional work takes time and of course, costs more money.

3D Scan by Sample & Hold
3D Print by Lee 3D
When looking at a 3D printed figure, you can usually tell straightaway if the quality is good. A good 3D scanned and printed figure has vitality in the same way that a good photographer captures some of the essence of the living subject. This is partly to do with the original scan but it is also down to the detailing by a 3D artist in data cleanup. 

At the other end of the scale a poorly scanned and/or 3D printed figure may look deformed and strangely fossilised and may also show the results of poor lighting and colouring. Poor quality may be a result from the work of any stage in the process not being completed to a high standard. 

Colour 3D Printing
Currently the best 3D printers for printing scanned figures are the ZPrinter 650 or Project 660 (pretty much the same thing). This machine prints CMYK binders on to a white plaster based powder. Printed parts need time spent on post processing to increase quality. Poor quality colour 3D prints look powdery and pale. Again producing a good result takes a little time but nothing compared to the time required in the data clean up phase of the process. 

A 3D printer ain't no vending machine, it needs a good operator to get good results. To produce a good colour 3D print the printer needs to be set up properly, parts need to be orientated correctly in the build and parts need to be finished manually. It is very easy to make a pig's ear of a colour 3D print of a figure; a high standard often requires more time and cost and always requires more care and attention.

High quality 3D scanned and 3D printed figurines require bespoke services and you can expect to pay a lot more for a great figurine than you would from a run of the mill low cost service. In future I expect that software used for optimising scanned figures will be improved allowing lower cost figurines to be produced. In the meantime the process heavily relies on the skill of the technicians. 

On a more general note, questions have been asked about whether this is a service that will gain popular interest. Not everyone has a body that looks great as a warts and all 3D scan. Perhaps this will remain a specialist service for those brave enough to see themselves so accurately portrayed!

Details of Sample and Hold image shown above
Creative Director : John Jolly
Client : The British Engineerium ( )
Subject : Gresham Blake ( )
Scanned by: 

For more information visit

Friday, 3 January 2014

Lee 3D - 2013

The first months of Lee 3D have been pretty hectic. It has been immensely satisfying, we have had some great feedback and have completed well over a hundred jobs. 

Here are some of the key events that marked the year.

May 2013

  • Move into the Crimscott Street Studio
  • Website launched
  • The first ZPrinter 650 arrives

June 2013 

  • Busy printing student models for AA, UCL, South Bank and East London Universities

July 2013

  • Launched the first version of "Guide To Modelling for 3D Print in AEC"
  • Printing work for the Design Museum, Designer in Residence Programme

August 2013

  • Experimenting with colour 
  • More kit arrives

September 2013

  • Christabelle joins Lee 3D 
  • Design Museum, Designers in Residence launch
  • Visit to TCT Show at the NEC

October 2013

  • Major update to  "Guide To Modelling for 3D Print in AEC"
  • "Hornitation" on show at the Sea Foundation in the "Eindhoven triangle"

November 2013

  • Expand into new machine workshop
  • Second ZPrinter 650 arrives

December 2013

  • A busy month with some interesting work ahead in 2014
  • Chain necklace - R&D in consumer colour 3D printing