Goodison Park STL
My attempt at exporting Goodison Park from FIFA failed
During a brief flash of curiosity and potential entrepreneurship last year I pondered what a good idea it would be to take the architectural stadium models from the football-based video game FIFA and 3D print them. The in-game stadia are generated using sophisticated 3D scanning software and then rendered into the parameters of the game. How difficult could it be to 3D print them?
Well, too difficult is the answer to that question. Although the stadia may be beautifully rendered and the software to export them into Blender is straightforward turning those into anything near a printable model proved impossible for a layman 3D modeller such as myself. The idea was benched.
In January 2016 a UK-based company sealed a six- figure investment round in order to bring to market its software that specialises in bringing virtual content to life through 3D printing. Whispering Gibbon is the brainwave of CEO Joe Stevens and his team and it all started with gaming.
“We’ve worked for some of the industry’s biggest companies so our background is very game orientated,” explained Stevens. “We were always looking to print in-game creations out and realised that that was a problem that hadn’t been solved.
Because 3D printing has been around for so long we assumed that there would be a method to pick up any 3D content and print it out.”
Whispering Gibbon team
Whispering Gibbon team
The Whispering Gibbon team boasts of 60 years of building the engines that games are built upon, they began to create games that would allow users to generate 3D content and then the software on top of it to extract that model into a watertight printable file.
One of the games we worked on was a virtual bonsai tree,” said Stevens. “You plant the seed and it grew in 3D, each person’s tree was unique depending on the way you kept it, bent the branches, chop the branches and you were then able to get a 3D printable model for your creation.”
This “reverse engineering of the graphics pipeline,” as Joe Stevens describes it, might well have become Whispering Gibbon’s Post-it note moment. Famously 3M scientist Dr Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super strong adhesive and instead invented a low tack substance that left no marks on the surface when removed, it went on to form the basis of one of the most popular stationery items in the world. By cracking the niche subject of grabbing 3D content from games with their software, RenderFab, the team may have solved a wider 3D printing problem.
“The starting point was to develop a piece of software which would enable you to grab any 3D content that had been optimised to be displayed on screen and 3D print it,” detailed the CEO. “Primarily this was for gaming but game content is actually the most difficult to grab because within a game so much of what you see on screen is faked. Once you’ve cracked that then it becomes pretty trivial to do the same for an architectural model and other CAD data.”
Whispering Gibbon 3D Prints
3D Prints made using Whispering Gibbon's software.
The power of RenderFab has proved quite the draw for Whispering Gibbon, not only has the company had the aforementioned funding from Northstar Ventures and been voted into the prestigious Develop100 game developers 'ones to watch' list but it is also attracting attention from outside companies looking to use this piece of software, which was developed for in-house use, to extract 3D content for industrial means.
Despite that interest it is gaming that remains at the heart of the company and it would seem my entrepreneurial hunch may have been a viable business after all...
“We did a careers day at a school recently the thing the kids wanted to recreate the most was goals in FIFA. “They wanted to capture a 3D print of them scoring a specific goal against their mate, I thought it was going to be more traditional user generated content like Minecraft but really they wanted to print that experience they’d created and shared with somebody else.”