Carlos Silva, director of FabLab Puerto Rico of the International School of Design and Architecture of the University of Turabo and International Design Center, visited Brenchie’s for a few days to teach our team about 3D scanning, digital fabrication, and running a fab lab.

We focused mainly on scanning, but we also talked in detail about CNC cutting with different materials and forms, and learned about the wide variety of projects Carlos had been involved with at FabLab Puerto Rico. It’s amazing how much insight can be transferred in just a few days, and how easily we were able to use Carlos’s experiences to shorten our own learning curve.

We were able to do a lot together, and shared many ideas for future collaborations and the benefits and need for digital fabrication in the Caribbean.

 

 

At the Academy of Fine Arts and Design Aruba, Carlos shared a presentation of the many projects that have taken place at FabLab Puerto Rico, which fueled us with inspiration. Members of the Much’i Mondi art collective were taking many notes and getting a lot of ideas for future works. Projects included prototyping for a kinetic energy machine, launching an empanada into space, using drones to repair historic buildings, digitizing giant statues, and molding everything from candy to furniture for trees. We also talked about the role of the open source movement in the democratization of technology, the value of Mini Maker Faires in building excitement for making, and the importance of collaborations.

Check out his presentation and to get inspired for yourself:

 

The next day we experimented with 3D scanning. It started with the scanning of one of the composers of the Aruban National Anthem, Padu del Caribe. We were received by Padu, his daughter Vivian, and El Duque, all three of them accomplished musicians. As you might expect, the scanning session slowly turned into a jam session which included Padu singing his classic “Abo So” to our very own Christie Mettes, and together with El Duque and Carlos Silva, with Vivian on piano, a rousing rendition of the classic “En Mi Viejo San Juan“.

 

We traveled on to explore the northern tip of the island with Carlos, aiming to scan some local icons. Cacti turned out to be quite difficult to capture, with constant wind shaking the cactus back and forth, and the variety of textures and strong sun combined with a low laptop battery, leaving us unable to capture a good scan. So we brought some cactus with us to the lab to try again.

That night we had an open scanning session with about 20 visitors at the Academy, during which we scanned one of the greatest Carnival musicians in Aruba, Claudius Philips, and his Roadmarch King crown. This required us to make use of multiple scanning techniques, using the 123D Catch app for the crown, and the high-end Artec Eva scanner to scan Claudius himself. By 10pm we had scanned almost almost every visitor.

 

We learned that different scanners have different strengths, while the more expensive Artec Eva was amazing at capturing people in detail, this high resolution made hair very intensive for it to process. On the other end, our more affordable consumer-grade Sense 3D scanner did a great job of capturing hair with enough detail to produce a good 3D model. Autodesk’s (free) 123D Catch software can do amazing things creating 3D models from photos, but it takes time to process which makes it difficult to know how the scanned turned out until hours after. However, the (now unsupported) 123D Catch desktop software does offer the opportunity to realign pictures which it can’t place. Scanning a cactus in the controlled environment of the Academy, the Artec Eva did a much better job, but failed to capture the spines of the cactus. So we are still experimenting with the best way to digitally capture Aruba’s iconic cacti. With a hacked Microsoft Kinect, 3D scanning is possible with a variety of open source and free software options, which allow you to do things like align various partial scans into one. This has been an issue with our Sense 3D scanner, where repeated scans are often inadvertently lost when unsaved.

We had a great time, learned a lot, made an amazing friend, and hope to visit Puerto Rico soon to learn more from Carlos and the amazing work being done at Fab Lab Puerto Rico and the International School of Design and Architecture of the University of Turabo. Thanks Carlos, see you soon!