What/why are you in this line of business
I was always fascinated by CAD (Computer aided design) software where you can design things in 3D. Back when I was studying for my Undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, I would spend hours playing around with CAD software designing and animating whatever I could think of. One problem with that, apart from the amount of time I spent doing non-university related work, was that any design I created was always only a design on the computer and could never materialise.
The advent of relatively cheap 3D printers meant that the design process didn’t need to end on the computer but you could have a physical object printed off; something you could actually see and touch. I started working on using software that can capture facial details from just photographs, create a 3D model of the face and 3D print it. I chose to print faces because each face is unique and that is what 3D printers do best; low volume production of unique parts.
Sculppt gives people the chance to have 3D printed sculptures of themselves by simply sending 3 photos of their faces. Each Sculppt is 3D printed in a bronze finish. We chose to focus on making sculptures for graduation because it is a significant milestone in the lives of many people. It symbolises the end of era and the start of something new.
I called up my good friends, Tobi & Toba Adewuyi to brainstorm ideas. They always have good ideas. Tobi came up with the name (the initial name I had, looking back now was not very good) and Toba currently helps with web development and the software side of things.
Is there a link with your education/training?
No, not really. I studied chemical engineering at university and we never covered such topics. Everything I know about CAD software and 3D printing I learnt purely out of interest in the subject. An engineering background did help, however. Engineers are problem solvers and having a detailed understanding of how things works is always helpful.
How much do they cost?
Each Sculppt costs £199. This includes VAT and free delivery anywhere in the UK.
I could argue it’s a bit of a superficial gift. Why should anyone invest in it?
I don’t think it superficial. Its easy to think that way because traditionally, only very rich, famous or culturally important people had sculptures of themselves. That is because getting a metal sculpture was always very expensive. Traditionally, an artist individually handcrafted each sculpture. This could take anywhere from a few hours to days. The investment casting process was then used to transform the metal into its desired shape. This is an expensive and time-consuming process and adds to the cost of a sculpture.
I also think it’s a cool graduation gift and I have promised some of my friends that I’d get them a Sculppt once they graduate. Many of them are international students so they’ll probably take it back home when they finish university. Its a nice memento of time spent at university abroad.
Why do you think 3D printing is growing and where do you think the future of it lies.
3D printing is a manufacturing process that creates an object layer by layer until you have a 3D object. It is a generic name for a range of diverse technologies. 3D printing is a relatively old technology, almost 30 years old to be precise. Of late, it has received a lot of media attention. This is probably because of the arrival of reasonably low cost, desktop 3D printers making the technology more available to the general public.
The future of 3D printing looks great. It’s the best way to manufacture bespoke and low throughput products. The perfect example is medical implants like dental prosthetics or hip joints. It is also used to create quick prototypes of a design. The main challenge now is to increase the print speed without affecting the quality and physical properties of the printed object.
Do you own your own equipment and how long does it typically take to print?
Yes Sculppt owns its own printers. All production is currently done in London and it takes just under 24 hours from photos being sent, transforming these into an accurate 3D model of the person and finally 3D printing the sculpture.
As a start-up, what are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered and what lessons/advice do you have
We are a very, very young company. Like less than three months in trading young. We will make our mistakes as we grow and learn from them.
One of the biggest challenges is finding the right people. A company is basically a group of people working together to create a product or service. Find the right people; increase your chance of success. We currently have an amazing digital artist and production engineer working with us but we are still looking for more digital artists. Someone with knowledge about company law would also be great.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I think it is important to follow your dreams and do what you enjoy. Even if you fail, you’ll learn something new and have some fun in the process. When I started Sculppt, it didn’t feel like ‘work’ for me in the typical sense of the word. I enjoyed what I was doing and even if I was clocking 8 hours in front of a computer on a Saturday sketching something, it didn’t bother me one bit because I enjoyed it.
Originally published on Culture Custodian on 19th May 2015.