There's a gathering storm on the horizon.

Like the appearance of ominous clouds in the sky, the roiling collection of 'selfie' photos on offer since the near-universal adoption of the iPhone camera is a precursor to the coming storm of 3D printed 'headshots' you can place on your mantle.

That storm? It's being churned up by the growing number of companies which offer to create a tiny bust of you; a piece of sculpted immortality.

If you've ever wanted a lifelike model of yourself, a parent, friend or frenemy, can produce one for you, and here's the twist. Using the latest 3D printing technology, the company produces a realistic, three-dimensional model of you from nothing more than a 2D digital image.

Here's how the process works: upload your photo and an artist, after some computational wizardry is performed, adds the fine details to the ensuing 3D model of your choice. Once you've approved the final design, 3DforUS uses 3D printing technology to print your 3D model and then ships it straight to your door.


Located in the Innovation Centre of the University of Exeter in cooperation with the Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing and Exeter Advanced Technology, the company is in its infancy at this point, and the models aren't particularly inexpensive at $308 for the nearly nine-inch tall version, but they do have a pleasing level of detail and finish. Smaller versions of your tiny head start at just over $270.

The Japanese company, Omote 3D, opened the first 3D scanning and printing photo booth in November of last year, and there are now a variety of other companies offering to create a 3D model of you, but those firms require a visit to a scanning booth to create the end product. If you're nowhere near the Land of the Rising Sun, you can make a pilgrimage to Coney Island and stand stock-still while you're scanned by the Great Fredini.

On the other hand, you can save a trip and 3DforUS can create a 3D model from three digital photographs you upload to their site, one from the front, one from the side and one from the back. Those images provide the raw material from which an artist creates a 3D model and then "sculpts" the output to add fine details.

There are a couple of caveats for the photos you upload if you want an optimal result. You can't bare your teeth like this. You need at least a 5 megapixel camera. And you can't have your hair hanging over your face like this. Oh, and you shouldn't make any goofy faces like these, which actually violate all the rules.

The 3DforUS service offers a preview process which they say "guarantees that you can be sure that you are happy with the product before the 3D model is printed."