When 3D Scanning and Printing Meets Comic Books

3D Printing & Imaging
When 3D Scanning and Printing Meets Comic Books
The Gentle Giant Ltd. booth
The Gentle Giant Ltd. booth

Just last month, thousands of aliens, X-Men, video gamers, ghouls and Jedis descended on San Diego for Comic-Con 2014. And it wasn’t just for the stargazing and cosplay. In fact, 3D Systems and Gentle Giant were there to give attendees a good taste of all that the 3rd dimension has to offer. Guest blogger Roxanne Rives was at Comic-Con, and she filed this report.

The year was 1970. Four San Diego comic book and science fiction lovers founded the Golden State Comic Book Convention. Back then it was a scant affair with about 300 comic book lovers.

Fast-forward to today where there are a few more people going to Comic-Con: over 130,000. I was lucky enough to be part of the 3D Systems contingent at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest of them all and a major Hollywood-focused, celebrity-encrusted plethora of comic-filled goodness. This huge event has even branched out as it’s gotten bigger to include things like independent art and technology. From my perspective, a place like Comic-Con really allows 3D technology to merge with pop culture, and it allows the fans of comics to get further into those fictional worlds.

Stepping into the world of "The Walking Dead" at the 3DMe photo kiosk
Stepping into the world of “The Walking Dead” at the 3DMe photo kiosk

We had a full booth at Comic-Con to show off a bunch of our consumer scanners and 3D printers. This is a favorite part of my job, and it’s fun to demonstrate our 3D goody bag because a lot of people don’t realize how prevalent and accessible it really is, and what you can do with it. So we had our Sense and iSense scanners out in full force along with our awesome new CubePro 3D printer creating exclusive collectibles.

Let me diverge a little bit here, and say that Comic-Con is nothing short of sensory overload. Think about the cosplay alone. Everywhere you look fanboys and fangirls dress as super heroes and super villains, television characters and movie monsters. They walk, run and even fly down sidewalks. They eat in local restaurants, buy toothpaste in corner markets, and belly up to the bar at area pubs. Whether they’re done by a professional or an at-home wardrobe tinkerer, each and every one of these costumes is awesome. So we set out to memorialize them with our handheld Sense scanner and the iSense, which converts an iPad into a scanner. A lot of people are using our scanners for this kind of “physical photography.” So we scanned as many costumes as we could. We scanned Thor. We scanned space smugglers and aliens. We scanned a Sharknado. Yes, I said a Sharknado. I mean, why go with a 2D photo when you can get every costume in 3D? It almost seems like a disservice.

Scanning with the iSense
Scanning with the iSense

The real highlight was when we got an iSense scan of Marvel supervillan Apocalypse, who deemed us the “owners of the 3rd dimension.” When you think about it, pretty high praise from a guy who knows a thing or two about drastic transformations. Check out the video below to see Apocalypse being scanned into 3D.

YouTube player

One of the more popular experiences we had at Comic-Con, and one of my personal favorites, was our 3DMe kiosk. 3DMe kiosk puts anyone’s face onto a variety of sci fi and comic book characters. We’ve featured it at shows in the past, and this year’s kiosk included popular characters from shows like “Star Trek” and “The Walking Dead.” So people could stop by, take a quick head scan, tap a few buttons and see a custom avatar—or order a 3D printed customized figurine—depecting them as a Vulcan or as a scaly member of the undead hoard.

Collectibles at the Gentle Giant booth
3D printed collectibles at the Gentle Giant booth

We also wanted to give attendees a taste of how 3D tech is used to create some of their favorite memorabilia. Gentle Giant Ltd., our entertainment division, does just that, using 3D scanning, design and printing to do some marvelous visual effects for movies and TV ranging from “Star Wars” to “The Walking Dead” to Marvel. They then use their digital content to make high-end collectibles, jewelry and action figures. If the life-size Boba Fett wasn’t enough, attendees could see intricate figurines from “Alien” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” not to mention a six-foot-tall, 3D-printed robot from the upcoming video game “GrayGoo,” at the Gentle Giant booth.

Comic-Con is a 24/7 feast for the eyes. And for a 3D aficionado like me, it’s fun to see how 3D technology is playing a part in this colorful, amazing, whimsical culture.


Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!
Ping Fu

VP & Chief Entrepreneur Officer, 3D Systems

Honored in 2005 by Inc. Magazine as Entrepreneur of the Year, Ping Fu describes herself as an artist and scientist whose chosen expression is business. In 1997, Ping co-founded Geomagic, a 3D imaging software company, which was acquired by 3D Systems in February 2013. Before co-founding Geomagic, Ping was involved in the NCSA Mosaic software that led to Netscape and Internet Explorer. Ping serves on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Department of Commerce and on the board of directors at the Long Now Foundation. Ping’s book “Bend, Not Break” was published by Portfolio Penguin in January 2013.

View more articles by Ping Fu


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.