I remember as a kid seeing miniatures in catalogs. They were exquisitely detailed figurines, often of something wicked cool and Sci-Fi. In the catalogs they were painted looked amazing, but if you ever went to a hobby shop you quickly learned that’s not how they came. Instead they came blank and you had to paint them. I always thought this a rip-off, knowing I would never be able to make them look as cool as the catalog picture.
Today, however, there may be hope for the non-painters of the world. A new technique developed by Colombia University and Zhejiang University allows you to dip a textured 3-D object into a vat of cold water with a layer of painted film. The film will cover the object, painting it. While this technique has been utilized for some time with smooth surfaced items, the team was able to refine the technique to work for less uniform objects. One example cited is that of a cat figurine. The entire figurine was painted using three different films and they were even able to ensure that the face of the cat end up on the face an accomplishment that seems impossible on the face of it. The team utilized 3-D models, plotted entry points for the cat body and had a robot arm for the actual dipping.
There is still a lot of work for the team to do to truly perfect the system, but one day you might be able to buy a miniature Master Chief and have him fully painted like a pro in just a few dips.
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