Adobe’s Paul Trani Gives the Lowdown on 3-D Printing
On Monday, Dec. 8, the 79 New Montgomery theatre was packed with students waiting to watch a presentation on 3-D printing by Sr. Worldwide Creative Cloud Evangelist for Adobe Paul Trani. Opening after the drum solo of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” Trani delivered a vivacious show full of information, advice and demonstrations to get students and instructors excited about the possibilities promised by the fast-growing 3-D printing industry.
“I went to art school, graduated with an illustration degree and I like getting my hands on new technology because it’s another area that I can exploit for my own creative endeavors,” said Trani, whose aim for the presentation was to demystify 3-D printing and address the hype surrounding it.
While 3-D printing is currently experiencing a surge of interest and innovation, Trani explained that it has been around since the 1980s. Back then, it was patented by its inventors and was largely used by manufacturers. However, when the 2010s rolled around, these patents began to expire, clearing the way for the maker community and new companies to begin making printers and selling them to the public.
With new competitors popping up all the time, the 3-D printing industry is seeing constant innovation in the materials that can be used to print, which currently include plastic, ceramic, metal and sandstone. There are also different printing techniques that vary in price and accessibility.
With the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printer, Trani explained, “You have that plastic spool at the top getting fed into an extruder, which melts it like a hot glue gun basically. Based on that 3-D model, it starts making that shape.”
The inside of the object is made up of latticework, in a honeycomb style. More expensive printers, used by fulfillment companies like Shapeways, use glue and powder with no need for supports, as the powder does this job itself.
Trani went on to talk about the software necessary for 3-D printing, lauding Photoshop as a great program to use when creating models.
“Just like Photoshop did for photos and like Adobe’s done for text and images, we’re all about making sure whatever you create, that’s what your final product looks like. If you’re creating something in Photoshop, you should be able to print that out exactly what it should look like,” said Trani. “I like this as a designer. What was once on my screen is now in my hand.”
If you use another tool like Cinema 4-D to design your model, you can import it into Photoshop and paint on the object, select different materials, change lighting and other controls, before sending it in an STL file format to a 3-D printer. “Everything is pretty much a combination of basic shapes,” said Trani, adding that it is even possible to stop an animation and print from it, by exporting the 3-D object into a PDF.
Among the 3-D printed objects Trani passed around the theatre was a red iPhone case that he had designed himself. “Rather than going to a store and buying an iPhone case, I can make one. I can make exactly what I want, that will be personalized, customized for me,” said Trani, who recommended www.thingiverse.com as a site with open source models that can be downloaded and imported into Photoshop.
As was clear from Trani’s presentation, there are a lot of options out there for designers who want to get into 3-D printing. With the industry changing so rapidly, there is plenty of room for innovation as new developments are springing up all the time.
Fashion design student Vanessa Nash-Spangler told the theatre of her idea to use 3-D printing to make custom-fitted bras. “One of the biggest problems we face as women is that we have problems finding bras that fit correctly. So when 3-D printing came around, I was like, oh, why don’t we 3-D print a bra?”
After having trouble finding the right materials, Nash-Spangler began looking into holographics, “[I] found out that some of the clear holographics that are on electronics are printed with liquid silks. I figured if we could print holographics with liquid silk, why can’t we print clothing with liquid silk.”
Trani’s response, that “anything that is solid at room temperature and can be melted down, can easily be 3-D printed,” is encouraging, however 3-D printing still has a long way to go in terms of wearable materials.
“It’s in your guys’ hands,” said Trani. “It’s really in the creative’s hands to move this industry forward. It’s a new industry, let’s see what we can make in these cases.”
After the presentation, Director of Undergraduate Traditional Animation Beth Sousa said, “I was watching the student reaction. Our students tend to be laidback and they were a little more excited than I’ve seen them. Especially some people I recognize as 3-D animation students. They were really excited about the 3-D potential for printing.”