by Ray Lai

The number one coolest thing I saw was the Form Labs 3D printer. It is what is called a stereolithography (SLA) printer.


It differs from the current soirée of desktop printers that use a polymer string melted in layers to form the shape. Resolution (or how segmented the layers are) varies on how thick the melted extrusion is applied. Makerbots are 0.1mm which is good but still needs work to get a smooth surface.


(Plastic extrusion, or fused deposition modeling (FDM), is the most common desktop 3d printer technology; FDM printers melt plastic and use an extruder to print each layer with molten plastic. The vast majority of desktop plastic extrusion machines lack the finish and resolution for professional-grade output. SL can outperform the print quality of even high-end FDM machines.)


How the Formlabs printer works (and what makes it so cool) is that it literally grows the model from a tray of goo.  The goo in question is actually a photosensitive resin that solidifies when exposed to light..... Laser light is used to solidify the resin as the model is grown.


What you get is a strong professional model that is smooth with very little work to finish it.  The model is less fragile as it isn't made in layers and a higher impact resin can be used to make the model (or prop) even stronger.


But what I thought makes it so much cooler and cool for us in the art department is that this type of professional 3D printing is now way more affordable.....about $3300US for the desktop model.


This kind of thing used to be reserved to the more specialized and expensive out of house service providers with costs and turnaround times that made it less attractive as a way of doing things.


Think how the colour laser printer and the large format printer has changed the way we operate in the art department ; like how we used to send out set drawings to be copied and printed or how the only option for large print graphics was to send it out..... Now we do it in house.


High resolution 3D printing of this kind has huge potential in this department.

Choice of goo (resins) include a flexible soft material as well as clear and super tough.

UPDATE : As of this posting,  FormLabs has introduced an updated and improved 3D Printer called FORM 2


This was kinda cool too. Similar 3D printing technology as the Formlabs but at a larger scale.

And more expensive too.

VR - Virtual Reality was the theme of this years SIGGRAPH and encompasses a lot of the second coolest things I saw.


There was a cornucopia of VR exhibitors at Siggraph's VR Exhibit Floor like virtual interactive museums, driving sims, first person role playing and interactive VR games.


Lucas Entertainment has a pretty cool immersive thing they've been experimenting with where one can "experience" a story from different points of view as it is happening in real time. There was no exhibit and they just talked about how cool it was in a presentation which was disappointing because it looked so cool.... But I digress.


One of the cool things I saw was a GM exhibit that demoed their interactive virtual car thing. With a pair of VR goggles and a VR flash light, the user can walk around a virtual car and even sit in it. With the VR flashlight, the user can "drill" into the vehicle and see all the internal structure and mechanics..... That of course commands a lot of computer and graphics card power to accomplish and is not as smooth an experience as it can be....but the potential is still huge none the less.


Why I think it could be cool for us..... VR can be used for producers, designers and directors to experience a set that is being conceptualized.  Discussions could take place in a virtual set in real time where the participants do not need to be at the same location..... Kinda like those on line role playing games.... But for the serious creative work that we do.

Real Time Auto VR powered by the super computer on the left.

Augmented reality.....  a system where you can feel a 3D virtual object in front of you.

Augmented reality.....  an interactive mirror / monitor system where you "Try On" virtual clothes.

And you can customize the style, look and patterns in real time.

Furniture Sketching....  This was part of a larger presentation on craft and technology.  It included a video from 2007 where the performers/artists would be drawing furniture pieces like stools, chairs, end tables etc. with a motion tracking stylus in an open empty space.


The computer would track the stylus and create the trail/geometry in the computer so that the audience could see what the artists were virtually sketching even when the artists themselves couldn't see what they were doing.

This wasn't part of my original top 3 coolest things I saw at SIGGRAPH 2015 at first, but the more I thought about it the more I thought about the potential it demonstrated back in 2007.

Why this is cool?  Well imagine that one could design and build in virtual space anything they wanted..... With the ease of sketching quick forms as you would with a pen and paper ( or in my case - iPad and Stylus ) and then edit or modify them in 3D space with your hands like virtual clay.

Imagine that you could then send these forms to be rapid prototyped .... The fore mentioned performance pieces where ultimately 3D printed... Pretty cool for an artistic performance piece that demonstrated the fusion of expressive art with technology that was really hacked together by a bunch of artists.


Most of us have seen Scifi shows that have had characters interacting and manipulating holograms to assemble or deconstruct stuff.....Imagine you are Tony Stark in the Ironman movies designing and virtually building his suits and other cool stuff.... But instead of holograms you have something like a Microsoft Hololens.


Very soon that kind of virtual interactive thing would come to us in the office where we could virtually design and build sets or props or whatever with the ease of just sketching in the air.

This was cool.... Essentially an iPad like device attached to a stick on wheels remotely operated by someone who is bed bound in a hospital in Brazil..... This enabled him to attend and participate at Siggraph via tele presence.

More FDM 3D printers than you can shake a stick at....

Though I think one of them is a desktop CNC machine.  Still kinda neat.

This thing from Epson is a direct to garment printer.

Another from Epson .... Digital white board

Curved Screens.... At first I was thinking why?

Then I'm thinking WANT

Motion capture.... That's always neat.

More Motion capture.... But with sensors that the performer wears

Photo Real Render Plugin called iRAY from NVIDIA

End of the Line For Now