3D model viewing interface using three.js and a 3D printed model on a turntable (both models turn when the physical interface is turned)

This is an experimental 3D modeling interface I worked on in a group project. The idea was to develop a solution to a problem I’ve encountered: I love 3D modeling, but haven’t seen a lot of it in gallery or museum settings, presumably because it’s a format we’re not used to — so how do we fix that? This prototype demonstrates a combination of two solutions. The digital version of the object (a 3D-scanned model of the Venus de Milo) is rotated on-screen at (ideally) the same rate as the rotating physical interface, a lazy suzan. There’s also a 3D-printed version of the model right in front of the user to give a physical representation of the model file. The model-viewing program has 3 controls: a rotation reset button, a switch to change rendering modes between solid/wireframe/pointcloud, and a switch to increase/decrease lighting on the model.

The artistic part of this project, in my opinion, is about how it calls a material object into question. 3D scanning the Venus de Milo is not an exact copy of the object, as virtual vertices are mapped to various points on the object’s surface in order to generate a representation of the object in the form of a mesh — so even with a high-end 3D scanner, you’re going to get an approximation of the original object, with small details coming out distorted or missing. When you 3D print it, the difference in representation is even more drastic because you’re limited to the physical abilities of the printer and the material you’re using — for instance, the ABS in the Fused Filament Fabrication printer we used can’t do overhanging edges past a certain angle, so certain spots are missing or bulging or otherwise weird. At that point, what we have is a hollow chunk of plastic that resembles the Venus de Milo — and what’s that worth? Aside from that, if you make your own sculpture with 3D software and then print it out, or render the model as an image, which is the piece with the most value?

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