Identity crisis? Laugh it off by having a 3D figurine made of yourself
SUPACHAI PRABYAI reckons that, since Thais went nuts for the customisable Furby and Blythe dolls, they’ll surely jump at the chance to have figurines of themselves. It’s a terrific idea – these “dolls” are dead ringers.
Inspired in part by the device that cartoon character Doraemon uses to shrink people and objects to minuscule size in a flash, Supachai has come up with the “Me Limited Edition”. It takes considerably longer to shrink real people, of course.
He got the idea while attending an animation exhibition in Japan last year, where he recognised the potential in 3D printing. His “Me” is a near-exact likeness of a person – anyone – that’s reproduced from 3D-imagery scans.
At the recent grand unveiling in Bangkok, Supachai had fashion designer Pholpat “Moo” Asavaprapa, actress Kemanij “Pancake” Jamikorn and pop singer Hun The Star posing with their startlingly detailed Me renditions.
The 3D-printing technology originated in the US but is being more swiftly adapted to various uses in Germany – where it’s used to make prototypes of experimental automotive enginess to prove they can work – and in Japan. Japanese kids in cosplay outfits now regularly have 3D miniatures made, showing them in various poses.
So it was an inspired Supachai who returned to Thailand to spend three months training staff how to make the figurines.
“I was a graphic designer and interior designer for years and was always scouring the market for new materials,” Supachai says. “When I saw the 3D printer and scanner, almost immediately I realised it was something wonderful and that the lifelike figures might catch on with Thais.
“The Furby and Blythe dolls were a hit a few years ago – people were uploading pictures of their dolls to the social networks. This could be a new cultural trend, with people posting images of their own 3D figurines taken at different tourist attractions. It could be another way to promote our country as a travel destination too.”
In Supachai’s gallery-like showroom on Siam Square Soi 6, also called Me Limited Edition, a 3D likeness of well-known event-organiser Sombat “Tue” Tirasaroj perches next to one of clothing designer Chawaporn “Ploy” Laohapongchana. The non-celebrities include a lovely girl in her Chulalongkorn University uniform, a handsome foreigner, and a young man in striped T-shirt with a tiger backpack.
This is a long way from the usual approach to sculpture. There’s no shaping of clay or wax to make a cast. The figurines are made of a polymer and vinyl plaster, initially in powder form, and are both waterproof and fire-resistant. The miniatures will last for years.
You can have a “Lifestyle” human figure or a “Favourite Object” made, ranging in height from six to 30 centimetres (1:6 to 1:20 scale). The price can be anywhere from Bt4,500 to Bt8,500, and if you want your mini-Me wearing sunglasses or any other detailed accessories, that’s another Bt500 per item.
Deciding on the scale is a matter of dividing your height by a factor of 10. “I recommend the 1:10 scale because it’s closer to perfection in detail from head to toe,” Supachai says. “And I like it when customers wear their favourite apparel so that the figures represent their individual character.”
The whole process takes 15 days. The design team in the second-floor studio needs just five to 10 minutes to get the photos they need, recording everything from hair colour to the watch on your wrist, and even tiny details like the label on your blue jeans.
It takes another five or 10 minutes to run a special scanner up and down your body. You have to stand as still as possible so that the device can capture precise data, which is stored as a 3D Max file.
“The scanner cost Bt1.2 million – it’s very hi-tech, normally used for medical purposes,” Supachai says, pretty much justifying the price of his figurines. “It gathers all the valuable data, even recording the pores of the skin, every mole and wrinkle on your face and the scars on your legs. So the figure will really look like you in every molecule!”
For the balance of the 14 days and 23 hours, computer software creates a model and renders the imagery to a 3D printer worth Bt5 million. (And any griping about the price of these “dolls” ends here.) The printer uses RGB-colour ink in 250,000 tones.
“The 3D printer can mould figures in layers as thin as 0.1 millimetre. We’re looking for absolutely top quality. Our models combine printing techniques and craftsmanship. We want to create a model that looks as much like its owner as possible.”
And how about a figurine that looks just like your pet? No, you don’t need to have your cat sedated to pose for the scan. Supachai and his team are building software that will let them scan an animal in just five seconds. They hope to offer the service in another six months.
They also offer a service called Niche, devoted to making prototypes of retail products and houses, a useful tool for architects and designers. “It’s a new choice for them,” Supachai says. “The 3D models can serve as a guide in adjusting sizes and functions.
“I’m always trying to find new technology to create the most life-like models,” he says. “I want Me Limited Edition to become a hub for 3D printing.”
FROM YOU TO ME
>>> The Me Limited Edition showroom is on Siam Square Soi 6 and open daily from 11 to 9.
>>> Find out more at (02) 658 3752, (093) 939 7525, www.Me-LimitedEdition.com, and www.Facebook.com/Me.Limitededition.com.