by Jessica Hazel.
Every proud parent's fridge is covered in as many sugar-paper masterpieces as can possibly be blue-tacked onto it. The only problem with this is that they get increasingly dog-eared with each slam of the kitchen door and eventually have to be filed away in the attic, only to see the light of day again once they leave home. Helpful then that Spanish designer Bernat Cuni has come up with the world's first ever children's drawing 3D printing service known as 'Crayon Creatures'.
This is the latest in a stream of cunning product ideas surrounding immortalising your children's journey through life. When I was a wee sprout the best it got was putting my handprint in a oval slab of clay - nowadays you can have your babies booties dipped in gold, your children's teeth made into jewellery and even your foetus scanned and cast into resin! Luckily Cuni's idea is at the less nauseating end of the spectrum.
In an interview the The Guardian Cuni states: "We have a small DIY 3D-printer at home, so my kids are used to seeing ideas turned into objects quite easily," he says. "Whenever I bring something home now, they ask if I made it or bought it. It's interesting they have an idea that there is another source for things than just the shops."
It seemed a natural step to use the children's ideas to make an object, instead of Cuni's own. The process is somewhat complex, however. Firstly, the image needs to be understood in terms of what it's 3D form might look like. Then it has to be scanned, cut out and extruded using digital modelling software as if it had been cut out from a piece of wood. Next the rough shape has to be softened by applying pressure to the 3D mesh. It is then sent off to be printed out at Shapeways on a Z-Corp printer in sandstone-like material which is actually gypsum-based powder, bound with pigment and adhesive.
"There are some limitations, like very thin arms, which would break off easily," says Cuni.
Tempting as it may be, these are meant more for the parent's pleasure rather than being handed back to the children as a toy. Cuni says it's "to have next to your office, to make you feel proud." For the kids, it's just a picture - they don't see the value in it. It's the parents who say "'Wow, look at this. It's kind of creepy, but beautiful because it's by my own kid.'"
Something which has surprised Cuni is that he is now receiving sketches which have been made on an iPad, the original intention was for them all to be realised from scribbles done on paper but he is in talks with the printers to translate the iPad drawings into models. Cut out the middle man and it won't be long before children are printing out their very own 3D monsters to have about the place.