CG Society has a beautiful article on the use of 3D scanning and printing in the Neal Gaiman/Henry Selick stop-motion movie Coraline.

Selick wanted to tackle an even bigger accomplishment: creating a true stop motion film with the smooth facial transitions of CG animation in a hands-on medium.

The answer to this quest was to use replacement animation, where one stop motion puppet face is progressively swapped for another slightly different expression with the needed smile, frown, or appropriate eyebrow position. This method is not new, but the effect is a bit choppy- often desirable for a hand made look, but has never before had all the in-betweens that Selick wanted. However, sculpting those thousands of expressions by hand would have taken years to complete. To keep the budget and timeline intact while creating stop motion animation so smooth you could read Coraline’s lips, production studio Laika creating blend shape CG face models that were output through rapid prototyping (RP).

I’ve been excitedly watching advances in the 3D printing (or “fabbing”, to the nerdsters) world since the RepRap wobbled its way into the DIY consciousness, and now that 3D printers are getting down into the realm of affordable gear, my excitement has spiked.

Rhizome has a great overview from an artistic perspective, and Make:Blog’s “News From The Future” category has plenty of interesting 3D printing stuff trickling in, though it would be easier to find if Make had some more specific topic tagging, rather than rather nebulous categorization. Guys?

If 3D printers are now cheaper than laser printers were 10 years ago, then I’d expect to have one in my studio in much less than that time. Meanwhile, companies like Shapeways and Ponoko are making 3D printing and fabbing simple and sociable. Throw a DIY 3D scanner in to the mix, well, who could help themselves?