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Printing San Diego Comic-Con In 3D

Evening Edition

Aired 7/25/14 on KPBS News.

3D Systems targets consumers at San Diego's Comic-Con with its 3D printing.

The lines, the crowds, the costumes are all signs that Comic-Con has landed in San Diego. The main convention hall was jammed Thursday with exhibitors and curious crowds on opening day, and one company was putting an extra dimension into its display.

3D Systems, a South Carolina-based company, and its entertainment partners hold a prominent corner spot on the main floor of the San Diego Convention Center. Artist Shun Kim used a computer stylus to sculpt and draw a three-dimensional figure. Once done, it can be printed into a plastic figurine.

3D Printer on display at Comic-Con

Keith Ozar, 3D Systems marketing representative, said the pop culture convention is the perfect place to introduce the idea to consumers.

"3D printing ... people think it's a new technology. In fact it's been around for 30 years," Ozar said. "People have been using it in automotive, aerospace medical applications, for 30 years.

"Just in the past few years has it entered the consumer space. So now people are seeing them in their friends' homes."

When is comes to action figures, the result can be impressive. These small statues look like the actors in the AMC show "Walking Dead." And there's a chance to put an individual face on a 3-D-printed figurine.

Will Seith of 3D Systems helps convention goers become characters.

"This obviously is for the 'Walking Dead.' It's one of the properties that we have for this experience. So you feel like being Rick or Darryl?" Seith said. "OK, let's try it out."

The kiosk contains the scanning and computing technology to create a figurine with a visitor's face.

"Look into the camera. Here we go. One. Two. Three. OK, we got a picture," Seith said.

The digital result is free to Comic-Con visitors. It can be posted on Facebook or Twitter. An actual figurine with a person's face on it costs about $80. This is a cookie-cutter application where 90 percent of the figurine is already done.

There are portable scanning systems that are a little most sophisticated.

"A little hardware attachment for the Ipad connects in," said Joe Borr of 3D Systems. "The (I-Sense app) lets you do physical photography just about anywhere in the world."

Joe Borr scans Keith Ozar at Comic-Con on July 24, 2014

He turned it on. He walked slowly around the subject, scanning the person. And then activated a computer software program that filled in the gaps. The end result is a 3D image that can be loaded into a computer and then printed by a 3D printer.

Some 3D printing proponents said putting the technology into consumers' hands has the potential to change more than the entertainment world.

"A kid can find a video camera in their dad's closet and they can become Steven Spielberg, right? The way they communicate with video," Ozar said. "What does it mean when you find a machine where you can become an architect, you can be an industrial designer, engineer? And this is what we really need right now. We need people who can rebuild infrastructure and make things."

The technology is still expensive. The small consumer-grade printer costs several hundred dollars. The larger version costs about $2,700 and it costs about $50 for a print cartridge.

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