My first experience with a 3D printer was at the Armory Show in 2011 when they were still more of a novelty item. Printing pioneers MakerBot were on hand to make souvenirs, and I couldn’t help but reflect on just how smart it was to present this technology to artists in its early days. They created the 3D printer that is accessible to their loyal and devoted following, from every walk of life, and gave them the keys to the kingdom.
For this reason, the Thingiverse, MakerBot’s database of designers, create scores of community-sourced print specs, and it is as endless as the internet itself. The community reminds me of ours here at xoVain—there's an overwhelming vibe of positivity and people are more or less neighborly and supportive. This is a true information exchange; the members create designs and upload them, which anyone can download and print. Because the entire platform is free, anyone can print anything, and you can find just about anything to print.
This couldn’t have come at a better time in the beauty and fashion sphere. People are more discerning when it comes to their purchases, and awareness about the downside of buying cheap crap is always on the rise. More and more are turning to DIY, and what is a 3D printer if not a DIY device in its purest form?
The printer runs off of spools of meltable, biodegradable material, and there are colors, textures, and other characteristics that lend unique properties to each design. The printer melts and dispenses the material in a specified pattern by the 3D blueprint, kind of like a hot glue gun that extrudes molten plastic. It’s mesmerizing to watch and gets the mind buzzing with possible designs.
I went to their HQ to look at their office Tardis and chat with MakerBot about what makes the sharing concept so unique and what it means for design, fashion, beauty, and creativity at large.
Essentially, the most useful function of the community-based design source is the cooperative nature. Person A prints a comb, person B prints this comb but doesn’t like the distance between the prongs. Since the designs are open, person B can take person A’s design and alter it before adding it back to the Thingiverse. Person C has a choice between design A or B, or can alter either one to make their own. It’s truly collaborative, and you don’t even have to physically own a 3D printer—you can send your design (or someone else’s) to a printing service or a friend’s printer.
You can basically treat the Thingiverse as a virtual and customizeable Target, printing anything from a witch’s broom to a face mask, and this Halloween people really are. I asked MakerBot to print me a few cute items that would be helpful for beauty or Halloween, and now I want to be able to print my whims even more than I want to eat all of the Milk Duds this weekend.
Mulan touched me ever so much as a young woman. The fact that it's loosely based on a real story makes it even more awesome. When I was a little girl, I wanted Mulan's beautiful jade comb so desperately—almost as badly as I wanted Jasmine's amulet crown. In fact, my mom loves to tell people that when I was little, she had to cover my eyes as we walked past The Disney Store in the mall. Dreams come true, as you can see here: I now have my own Mulan Blossom Comb!
If you find yourself in need of an accessory to compliment your Rumblefish, Cry Baby, Sandy, or other badass costume, consider getting yourself one of these doodads. Printed in three parts and fun to whip (and nae nae), you can play many roles if you snap open this comb to the beat of "Monster Mash" this year.
One of the perils of a costume is keeping your look together if you are wearing makeup. A pizza run can turn a witch into a ghost if you forget to reapply that Fairuza juice afterwards! I had MB print me a lipstick keychain so I can keep track of my lippies on the go—crucial if you don't want to carry a purse.
This is but a mere taste of the fun and shenanigans you can print on a MakerBot Replicator machine. Their printers start at $1,375, which is an investment, but it's quite easy to have things you want printed by someone else on the cheap. The printers are most beneficial to schools, where learning design skills and being able to construct them teaches valuable concepts to a child.
Whether you use them for fun, work, or that prototype you've always been developing, this is a very important tool that I think will soon be making a bigger impact on beauty and fashion. Thingiverse members are making everything from electrical components to platform shoes, and I can already think of dozens of beauty applications. Whether you use this network to find the perfect Shakespearean Skull paperweight or collab on a dress, you can turn imagination into reality, and beauty lovers belong in this conversation.
- What would you print with a 3D printer?
- Has anyone else been up in the Thingiverse?
Photos: Maria Penaloza