The one sticky issue that 3D printing faces in its quest to become mainstream is the ability to design in 3D, the layman has no idea how to use CAD software and probably does not have the time or desire to learn how. There have been a few attempts to simplify the process; think Autodesk’s 123D series or MakerBot’s Digitizer, but what if you could take pre-existing skills, particularly in children, and turn those into 3D models.
Minecraft has been downloaded on a multitude of platforms over 20 million times. The simplicity and infiniteness is the secret to its success, much like a virtual Lego, gamers are only limited by their imagine (Take a look at some of these amazing creations). Imagine if you could turn those 20,000,000 Minecraft users into 3D modellers and therefore 3D printers, that's a veritable...goldmine.
Imagine no more, for one genius, who just wanted his kids to 3D print only for them to get bored and start playing Minecraft, has developed PRINTCRAFT, a piece of software that turns those Minecraft builds into .stl files for 3D printers. That man is Paul Harter and we caught up with him:
How did the idea for Printcraft come about?
Paul Harter (PH):Some friends and I bought a MakerBot when the first one came out and I had it at home with my boys, they were interested in making things, so I showed them TinkerCad but they lost interest very quickly and went off to play Minecraft instead. I thought "well if they’re making 3D models in Minecraft it would make sense to be able to print those rather than learning a whole new piece of software."
Where do you see Printcraft going from here?
PH: At the moment Printcraft gets more attention from the maker community than the Minecraft community, I’m holding off pushing it to that community just yet, we’re not quite ready to have vast waves of kids playing it yet. It is still in Beta, doing print shows and showing groups of children how it works is helping us iron out some creases. Hopefully within a month or so I’ll start to push it in the Minecraft world. I’d love for Printcraft to be a stepping-stone into more advanced 3D building software.
How did you first get into 3D printing? What attracted you?
PH: I’m a typical geeky, nerdy person and I love the idea of the virtual becoming physical, that’s what attracted me to 3D printing before Printcraft, I think that’s part of what technology offers us. A lot of what I do is about making tools for people, I work with a lot of creatives to write pieces of software to help them make the things they want to make. I think 3D printers offer a similar service, the fact that it’s moved into being a relatively domestic product really made me want one.
How do the files translate to STL have you had any trouble printing them off?
PH: The files from Printcraft do involve a little bit of trial and error to get right, there are often bits of overhang. But more often than not they do work and that’s what excited my boys the most; seeing this thing they’d designed in Minecraft manifest itself in real life.
On that note what’s the nicest thing you’ve seen come off Printcraft?
PH:I was at a show this week showing Printcraft to some children, this one kid created a really funny penguin character right away, I thought it was great!
Where does Printcraft go from here? What is next? World Domination?
PH: Up until now it’s just been a bit of hobby project I’ve funded myself, which is partly the reason I’ve not been able to do as much with it as I’ve really wanted. But I’ve had a bit of funding which gives me the opportunity to work on it full time for a few months, one of the first things I’m going to do is to make it scalable so as many people can use it as they want.