Every once in a while, a company introduces a product or service that defies market categorization. It isn't a case of, "another business doing X." It is something else, original and innovative in its approach. Sandboxr's entry into the 3D printing universe fits this description. It isn't exactly a 3D software company, 3D printing service bureau, or an online 3D object brokerage. It is a little bit of all of these things, but not precisely any of them.
At the heart of Sandboxr is its software, an online application providing a 3D manipulation interface that people with no design education or experience can use to make custom creations. Company execs call the platform the “ultimate 3D Printing playground” for artists, video gamers and end users. The idea is to make 3D printing more accessible to all of them.
|Sandboxr running on an Android tablet|
This month Sandboxr started an exclusive beta for content creators welcoming 3D designers and artists alike. Each artist/designer will have his or her own “boutique” and brand in the system, wherein they will sell digital and print licenses of their work and also provide free designs if so inclined. Sandboxr's forthcoming Kickstarter campaign will give non artists the opportunity to acquire Sandboxr beta keys. Once live, all artists and users alike will have a chance to join the party, providing a golden merchandising opportunity for independent artists and major players from the comic, gaming and movie industries. Imagine being able to create your own Hulk figurine, posed how you want, with the facial expression of your preference, carrying a stuffed animal, a fluffy bunny, by the ear.
Though multiple file formats are planned, at present Sandboxr is working exclusively with Maya files. For those readers not familiar with Maya, it is an industry standard in professional 3D design software, an Academy Award recipient and go-to tool used by visual effects award winners. It isn't software you just open and start using. Skill is required, both learned and natural.
This means the object quality in Sandboxr's library is going to be very high, which should attract users to join the community. The high quality also means that consumer-oriented 3D printers will not be able to print the objects in Sandboxr’s marketplace/library – at least initially. The precision just isn’t there yet, though company execs say it eventually will be. In the meantime, Sandboxr will handle all 3D printing and fulfillment as a service bureau using the most technologically advanced full color printers 3D Systems has to offer. This is big boy stuff – not the kind of gear likely to be included in any of our next home office upgrades.
Sandboxr’s application will allow people who don't own a 3D printer and who have never seen 3D modeling or CAD software to create impressive 3D printed scenes, as if they were a movie director or photographer, similar to what Poser and DAZ Studio do for 3D rendering. With those products, an ever expanding content library feeds software the basic objects and the software allows the end user to mix, match, tweak, twist, pose, morph, articulate and otherwise discombobulate until a scene is created that resembles what the user envisioned, or whatever popped into the user's head while playing and experimenting.
In other words, the software user concentrates on telling the actors and props what to do, instead of building the actors and props from scratch. The difference is, Poser and DAZ Studio do this for rendering 3D scenes to two-dimensional output (paper, your computer screen, video), whereas Sandboxr renders real world objects via 3D printing.