Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is it possible to 3D scan and print a Topper Dawn Doll?

Humans have made their own goods going back to the dawn of the human race. Since the industrial revolution of the 18th century we have relied on machines and cheap foreign labour to make our household products and toys.

One of these toys is the Dawn doll, a small fashion doll made in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Her body is made from plastic and she was cast in a mold in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. These dolls were briefly remade during the early 2000s but for now her collectors have to be happy with buying from the vintage Dawn doll section on Ebay. 

Around 1999 I wrote a fictitious story for DDM (Dawn Digest Magazine) based on "A Day in the Life of a Topper Factory Worker" and in one of the stories I wrote about a "3Dupliscanner". Here's an extract of the text: "The new Topper 3Dupliscanner for duplicating Dawn outfits, accessories and play sets just the way you want! Just put your object inside the 8.5” x 11” scanner box and close the door. Perhaps you wish to duplicate the Rain Check Cape? Choose the settings on your Topper computer software. ie. Fabric: stretchy, metallic, knit; Colours: black, silver; Notions: white thread, plastic silver leaves, silver beads. The more settings you select the greater the chances of your object being accurately duplicated. Next press Preview for a full 3D rendering preview on your computer monitor. If you are not satisfied you may change the settings. Perhaps you would rather have gold metallic with blue checks on your Dawn’s cape? This is where you can change your options. You can adjust Lightness, Darkness, Size, Softness and Colour. If you are satisfied with the settings press the SCAN button. When scanning is complete you may open the door on the back of the scanning box. Inside you will find your shiny brand new duplicated item of Dawn doll clothing. In this example you would find a crispy mint Rain Check Cape. Your original item remains unaffected by the scanner. Supplies: Special CMYK, gold and silver ink cartridges that each fit into the special slots on top of the scanner, white colour-transfer thread, white plastic caplets in 3 hardnesses, white cloth sheets. Takes the most basic of sewing supplies and converts into gorgeous clothes for Dawn dolls, jewellery or any other useful object that would fit into the scanning box. Purple Floral Stand? Black Dawn doll case? Purple Dawn shoes? Red and black Beauty Salon? They’re all yours! MAC & PC Windows versions. Software included."

It's quite interesting how this idea was prescient. 

A few months ago I was at the Geekcraft Meetup at La Fontana Cafe in Burnaby, and a friend was passing around a magazine which contained a "3D printer"! This sounded like something right out of science fiction! For a mere $2000, which includes all the gadgets and plastic capsules that you'll ever need, you can assemble your own 3D printer to print out 3D objects! Yes, this could even be a way to print out new Dawn dolls! From their website many people have printed out their own action heroes. Here's a link to information about the 3D Thingomatic printer. 

There is likely to be some experimentation involved. Does someone already have 3D files created that could be converted to look like a Dawn doll? However, if authenticity is a concern, than we need to draft our own 3D file.

At that moment my investigation started. Should I take a 3D graphics course to learn how to draw a Dawn doll in 3D? It's a possibility and course options led me to BCIT. Did I have time to devote to a four month long course, once a week, plus intensive homework, and a big final exam at the end? Perhaps not at this moment in time, but I may be ready in six months. Is there an easier way of getting my 3D image?

I had a chat with a millwright friend of mine in Delta. He recently attended a trade show in China. He said that if I was willing to order about a million Dawn dolls, I could easily have a factory in China make them up for me, and he could supply me factory names. Any of them would be happy to talk to me. All I need to do is mail them a Dawn doll and they can faithfully reproduce her in their factories. However, I can't afford one million dolls, let alone an order of around 12,000 dolls. While the factory salespeople would be polite to me, they would have to respectfully decline. Such a small order of dolls would not be worth their time. 

I discussed the copyright and trademark issues of Dawn with my friend. He said in China if you have the money for the order than they are willing to produce. The copyright and trademarks are non-issues in China. After all, where do all the clone handbags, shoes, clothes, even iPads get made? Right. I did mention that I knew that legally each person can make one doll in their own name and image and legally sell her in the stores, without worrying about copyright or trademark infringement.

The new era of Dawn dolls were made at the McDonald's toy plant in China around the year 2000. Unfortunately Sharon John, the owner of Checkerboard toys had numerous fulfilment issues with the plant, as the plant found the low quantity Dawn doll orders cumbersome. They'd rather cater to the big McDonald's company as their orders ran in the millions. 

My friend said that to get started on making up my own "Melanie" dolls, I would need to find someone with a 3D scanner so that I could get the basic form of my Dawn doll scanned. He cut me some stainless steel sheet metal strips as he said the doll will need to be glued down securely, and I would need the doll arranged in a variety of positions for scanning. Thinking about it now, perhaps the best position would be of her standing in an upright position as the scanner would move around her. He said perhaps I could get a collector/engineer interested and they could scan my doll during one of their breaks, rather than charging me a scanning fee. Of course I don't have any friends in the field, but at least I had a great starting point. 

Most likely this search would take me to downtown Vancouver. Here's what one of my Internet searches brought up. A company by the name of 3D Reverse Engineering. 

I wonder how much they would charge for a doll scan? How many megabytes or gigabytes would the data file be? Would I have to buy a USB or can I use my 2 gigabyte one? Would they laugh me out the door?

Now once I have the 3D graphic file of my doll, I can take it to a company that produces 3D printed images, or in this case, an actual Dawn doll. Again, I have no idea how much this will cost me. One company by the name of Z-Corp 3D Colour Prints prints out 3D images into plastic forms. 

I've learned a lot the past couple of months on the possibilities of making new Dawn dolls. I'll leave it to you to add your own ideas and comments at the bottom of this page. Perhaps we can collaborate and in a year or so we can all print out our own dolls! I see wonderful things ahead.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is there a Doctor in the Soap, errr TARDIS?

Last weekend I spent a few hours handcrafting my very own TARDIS, but made out of soap, not wood.

I bought a large block of $16 soap for 50% off, plus blue colouring, and a rectangular mold, which also happened to be blue.

I melted the soap in the microwave, then poured it into the mold.

I let it sit for about an hour then popped it out.

I did one more pouring to a shallow depth and let set.

When I was ready to assemble, I grabbed the toothpicks and sliced, diced and chopped until I had a reasonable assemblage of a time machine.

I melted a bit more soap, added red and cut out a light for the top.

Now that it’s complete, I’m not certain I would do the assembly method again. Perhaps I will make my own TARDIS mold and pour directly into it.

Here’s the photo of my wonderful TARDIS! Now what do I do with it? Do I use it? Do I save it? Put it outside to slowly melt away?