3DPhacktory is a full-service 3D printing and design studio that opened its Leslieville doors last July. It offers cutting-edge technology to Toronto's creative industries in a collaborative and accessible setting.
In case you haven't heard, 3D printing is going to revolutionize the world, Star Trek TNG style, where everything you want magically appears at the press of a button! Okay, that's a stretch. In all seriousness though, according to a Toronto Star article from last month, 3D printing will potentially transform manufacturing, art, architecture, medicine, how we shop, and even what we eat. In a nutshell, 3D printing works by printing a 3D image, layer by microscopic layer, stacked on top of each other and fused together using UV light.
3DPhacktory is the first 'brick and mortar' 3D printing studio in Toronto with a physical location for people to visit and work through the design and print process. Clients can submit their 3D design files and have a prototype printed for pick-up within 24 hours, at a price of $5 per cubic centimetre. If you lack the necessary design skills or software, designers can work with clients for $50/hour. Objects can be printed with different levels of rigidity and shades of grey, and you can mix materials in the same object. Colour printing using powder printers from Z Corp printers is available from 3D Phacktory's affiliate, Objex Unlimited .
The studio wants to help people in "learning how they can express themselves through this medium" and support local creative industries, says Director Laurie Mirsky. With a background in film, Mirsky saw 3D printing as a great resource for making props and wardrobe pieces, and he now frequently works with film industry clients.
3DPhacktory also works with major companies, inventors, artists, designers of all types (from industrial design to furniture and even dolls) and 3D printing enthusiasts to create prototypes, mechanical parts, sculptures, and other goods. Their services are available during weekday business hours, but they are also open some weekends.
If you're like me and have had little exposure to 3D printing, visiting 3DPhacktory is a mind-blowing experience. The shop is a cross between a minimalist, modern studio and mad scientist's lab, with a clean and monochromatic design, state-of-the-art equipment, and models and prototypes scattered about.
Mirsky and his crew are eager to show off what is possible with their services. I was awe-struck as they passed around different printed objects, including a wrench, a bike chain, and--I kid you not--a printed model of a real person, the size of a paperweight, created using a hand-held 3D scanner (or a magic wand, in my mind). I suddenly began questioning the reality of my surroundings. Was that mug real, or printed? How about that phone? That keyboard? To quote one wise philosopher , "is this real life?"
It's the opportunity for education, collaboration and hands-on involvement that makes 3DPhacktory unique, says Mirsky and his team. There are online printing services that will ship your 3D designs to you. However, by working with designers at 3DPhacktory, you can refine your design first, so it prints exactly as you want it. Designers also help clients to develop their ideas, offering a fresh perspective. "Very few people work well in a vacuum. When two people are in a room, creative ideas come that you otherwise wouldn't get on your own," observes Mirsky.
I could tell that the team is eager to work with clients to bring their ideas into the 3D world. But, they won't print everything. Mirsky tells me we're in "the Napster stage" of this technology. There are plenty of shared designs online, but copyright infringement issues also abound. With his creative industry background, Mirsky is firm: "we're not going to print something that belongs to someone else" like movie action figures. He predicts that the industry will work through intellectual property growing pains, and companies will actively market their 3D designs to consumers.
So what does the future hold for this futuristic shop? They're busy with confidential design projects for major clients, and they will soon offer an online 3D model catalogue for independent designers to sell their creations. The team at 3DPhacktory is clearly excited to introduce Torontonians to this innovative and revolutionary industry. "These are really early days for this business. This is like, computer stores in the '80s."
Writing by Laura Adams / Photos by Javin Lau