3D printing has gone from science-fiction staple to a technology that is becoming relatively affordable and easy-to-use for people from all backgrounds.

Recently, I was inspired by the Autodesk software package 123D, and its application for the iPhone, 123D Catch. I decided to make a 3D-printed bust of myself, and wanted to document the various software programs used, as well as all the lessons learned.

By the end of the project, I had enlisted the help of 5 people, and used about a dozen different programs. It took 8 days from idea to finished product, and I couldn’t be happier with the final outcome.

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123D Catch is an application for the iPhone released by Autodesk in 2012. 123D Catch is a capture program that allows you to capture and upload photos of an object, to convert it into a format compatible with most 3D software packages.

I asked my friend John Ewing if he would be the photographer for this project, and he agreed. He came to the SCF Lakewood Ranch Campus, and took 40 reference photos of me, to be uploaded to the 123D site and rendered. We didn’t catch it at the time, but we neglected to take any pictures of the top of my head, which would cause quite a few headaches later in the process.

I left campus and went home, only to find that the 123D site had rendered me, with a massive hole in the top of my head. In addition, there were holes under my chin, and under my arms/chest as well.


mesh mesh2fragmentsTo close up the holes, I uploaded the files in MeshMixer, which has a feature that automatically finds and “fixes” problem areas in .OBJ models. This led to some interesting renders, as my head was often “fixed” by attaching the sides of the holes together in long and unpredictable lines. This file was uploaded into Catalyst, and while it was better, it still needed work.


I knew I needed assistance to make the model watertight, so I asked 3D printing wizard Chris Caswell at [carrythewhat?] replications for help. Using Netfabb, he was able to identify the major holes in the model, and he used Blender to close them, as well as mount it on a solid object.


Next up, illustrator/3D artist Dan Mitchell took a look at the model, and did a considerable amount of work on the hair, and overall smoothness of the object. I sent him several reference pictures of the top of my head, taken by my incredibly patient mother, Dolores Episcopo. Dan then sculpted the hair on the model, as well as doing work on the eyes, cheeks, and added a new pedestal for the bust.

Dan used the programs Pixologic Zbrush 4R4 P2 and Autodesk Maya 2012 to sculpt the textures.

See if you can figure out which picture has the hair rendered by Dan!

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Next up was the scaling and printing. Terry Byrne, the lab Technical Manager at SCF, was instrumental for the completion of the project. The first printer used was the uPrint Dimension, which uses ABS plastic extrusion nozzles to make the model. These pictures show this model before it has been cleaned, and still has the support material attached.

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The second printer used was a Vflash, which produces models made of a heavier material, but unfortunately, creates multiple support beams to attach the model to the surface. These beams were difficult to remove, and led to a lower-resolution appearance on the hair of this model.

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Both models had to be cleaned and prepared after printing. The Vflash model had to be put in a UV curing chamber, and the uPrint model needed to be given an acid bath to remove the support material.

After curing, the Vflash model was cleaned by given a quick bath in warm water, and having the support beams cut off the back. The uPrint model had all of the support material removed in the acid bath, and was rinsed with warm water to clean it off.

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These two models are the finished products. A lot was learned over the printing process, and a it took a lot of collaboration to get from idea to finished model.

It’s also worth noting that these busts not only fool the Facebook facial recognition software, but they also fool the iPhones facial recognition software as well.


123D Catch


Netfabb Studio Basic

Pixologic Zbrush 4R4 P2

Autodesk Maya 2012





Chris Caswell – [carrythewhat?] replications

Dan Mitchell – Death Metal Dan’s Art Blog

Terry Byrne – SCF Lab Tech Manager

John Ewing – Reference Photos

Dolores Episcopo – Reference Photos