When we met Paul at the 3D printshow last year we were really excited about his project. Now, 6 months later, it’s possible to 3D print your favorite designs from Minecraft through i.materialise!
Can you tell us a little bit more about Printcraft and yourself? How did you come up with
Paul Harter: «I have a small software and technology consultancy. Over the years I have done a lot of work with 3D and real-time graphics, but Printcraft is my first foray into the world of 3D printing. Printcraft was a hobby project I started with my children. Through the Makers Guild, a group of makers, artists and coders in London, I had access to a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic when they first came out. When I brought it home for the first time my two boys, aged 8 and 11, were very excited. They wanted to jump on it and start printing, but the available CAD tools to design objects required a little too much learning before they could get started. They quickly got bored and
How does it work?
Paul: «Since that first version I have completely rewritten Printcraft to make it a reliable and scalable tool for building models, this means that many more people can use it. The basic idea of Printcraft is very simple, it’s a customised Minecraft server, with the added ability to easily export models as files that can be printed on a 3D printer. To use Printcraft you first need a Minecraft account. If you don’t have one you can get Minecraft from Mojang. Then you login to one of our multi-player Minecraft servers: eu1.printcraft.org in Europe or us1.printcraft.org in America. »
In the game there are many building plots, you just pick one and build a model in it using Minecraft’s blocks. When you are ready you press the PRINT button next to the building plot and your model is sent off to be processed. You are given a link to a web page to collect it from, here you can see a preview of your model, and download it as an STL file, which can be printed on any 3D printer. You can share it with others using Thingiverse or get a print made for you by i.materialise. We are particularly excited by the ability of i.materialise to print in full colour, which offers the possibility of printing out very realistic Minecraft models. Our first test colour print from i.materialise was of a cow which we really like, and lots of people who have seen it are very excited by it too. »
Screenshot of the cow design in Minecraft.
What’s your background?
Paul: «I’m a Digital Toolmaker, which describes what I do better than just Computer Programmer or Technologist. Most of my work involves working closely with clients to make new creative software tools. My previous career was as a film and video editor, and much of my work is still for film and television, creating software production tools and real-time graphics. You can read about my other work on my company website.»
Why 3D printing?
Paul: «I’m as excited by the possibilities of 3D printing as everyone else. The ‘democratisation of production’ has been led by these new printers, and easy to use online 3D printing services, like i.materialise, are part of the same process, opening up advanced manufacturing techniques to a wider audience. I guess I see Printcraft as playing a similar enabling role, helping and encouraging young children to join in making things with these exciting new technologies.»
Skull design in Minecraft. Ready to 3D print?
Here you go! 3D printed in silver with a sandblasted finish.
What is your goal with this project?
Paul: «I have recently received some funding from NESTA, Mozilla and the Nominet Trust, as part of their Digital Makers programme, to enable me to develop Printcraft further. I’m improving the technology so that many more people can use it and I’m working with teachers and students to create educational resources with Printcraft. Technology education is an interesting area at the moment in the UK. I find myself in the middle of a very active debate about how best to teach technology, in and out of school. Recently I’ve been developing workshops for teenagers with a group called Technocamps in Wales, and this term I’m working with a class of twelve year olds at Bethnal Green Academy in East London. We are using Princraft to help the students redesign and then remake their school in miniature. I’m learning at least as much as I’m teaching, and I hope Printcraft will prove to be a useful teaching aid that others can use too. This teaching is part of wider research I’m doing. Hand in hand with developing the software I’m exploring how Printcraft is being used in differentcontexts, home, school and clubs, so that I can make it a more fun and useful tool.»