Yesterday we posted about 10 great pop-up shops where you can purchase offbeat holiday gifts this season. But at the 3DEA pop-up gallery, which just opened last week, you don't buy products, you see how easy it is to design and then print out your own creations using 3D modeling software and 3D printers.
Sound like something out of a sci-fi flick? Well it's not. I first heard about 3D printers at Maker Faire and initially I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept. But then I watched a 3D printer literally print out a pair of earrings, and it all made sense. At 3DEA, which is open through Sunday, January 13, you can check out a wide variety of products made via 3D printers (jewelry, clothing, accessories, toys, even furniture), play with 3D modeling software, print out simple 3D objects and even take classes with pros in the field to learn how this phenomenon may transform the retail industry. And guess who seems to take to this new technology best? Why kids of course.
My family and I recently visited 3DEA (a collaboration between a number of organizations, including NYC's Openhouse Gallery) and had an awesome time. Since I'm a shopaholic, I made a beeline for the display area to check out the 3D printed items up close. I was particularly impressed with the bra, the futuristic hat and the jewelry. But my husband and daughter, both artists, hit the doodle area, where they were able to sketch a few simple designs on a tablet with their fingers, and then print them out into 3D objects for FREE. This activity is, understandably, pretty popular, so there's a signup sheet and often a bit of a wait. My daughter was thrilled with the two designs she made: her signature and a flower. The friendly staff assists visitors and answers any questions you have about the process and 3D printers, including how much they cost and what kinds of material they use. Hint: It's usually plastic. One big tip: When you doodle, all of your lines need to connect, otherwise the objects will print out separately.
The gallery also has multiple rows of computers where you can experiment with various 3D modeling programs. My daughter tinkered with Sculptris 3D sculpting software, which you can download for free online.
While you can inquire about buying the products on display (ironically you buy them online, they're not printed out onsite) and 3D printers, the main goal here is to introduce the public to the possibilities of 3D printing. There are a variety of classes, and while none are specifically aimed at children, tech-savvy tweens and up are welcome in the beginner programs. Warning: They are not cheap! But visiting 3DEA and playing around is FREE.
If your kids (or you) get hooked, there are other places in NYC to learn more about 3D printing. This Saturday, December 8 at 11am, Tribeca gallery apexart is hosting a workshop called Imaginary Brands with MakerBot, where children ages 7 to 12 can learn how to make their own 3D printed products via Tinkercad, an easy-to-use 3D design program. It's $7 if you buy tickets in advance. Also, the Wired magazine pop-up shop in Soho is offering a DIY Workshop this Saturday, December 8 at 11am, where families can try various 3D printing projects. RSVP required. If you can't make either of these don't worry: We suspect we'll be hearing about many more 3D printing opportunities in the near future.
3DEA is located at 29th Street and Sixth Avenue. Open Tuesday-Sunday noon-5pm through Sunday, January 13. FREE