Victor De Los Angeles checking the 3D-printed horns that he had just applied to his creation. Photos by Bob Krasner
BY BOB KRASNER | Toys have changed.
When this writer was a kid, we made some pretty cool stuff out of cardboard boxes. And we didn’t have cell phones — but we had two cans and a piece of string that stretched all the way over to my next-door neighbor’s house, making late-night conversations possible without the help of the phone company.
Nowadays, though, all you need to make something really cool is a program like CAD or ZBrush that will produce an STL (Surface Tessellation) file that will be processed by GCode, so that the build file can be fed to an Additive Manufacturing device that will output in either ABS or PLA.
Sorry if I lost you along the way.
Although the technology has been around for 30 years, 3D printing is just now making its way into the culture. And thanks to the proprietors of the tiny East Village toy shop CUBO, at 521 E. 12th St., it has become accessible and even affordable.
Proprietors Victor De Los Angeles and Julie Kim met when their previous occupations — hotel manager and floral designer, respectively — intersected. Between them they had various art, graphic design and computer science backgrounds, but they bonded over their love of what are known as plush and art toys. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were not going to be happy unless their careers changed direction.
The initial idea for their store was that it would be a something-for-everyone source for collectable art toys, with everything from a Happy Labbit Blind Box ($5) to one-of-a-kind works, such as the customized Munny (a blank form created by Kidrobot) creature that co-owner De Los Angeles is working on now (estimated price, $700).
They realized, however, that selling plush toys and DIY (do it yourself) creatures was not going to sustain the business. Enter the 3D printer, which De Los Angeles, luckily, had an aptitude for.
The 3D printing process is not as simple as dropping an object into a slot and, a few minutes later, a bell chimes and a perfect reproduction comes out the other end. In fact, it’s a bit more complicated.
First, a three-dimensional file — the aforementioned STL — must be created. If the artists can produce the files themselves, they are halfway there. If not, De Los Angeles is adept at taking a two-dimensional drawing and creating the necessary 3D file, and he charges exceptionally reasonable rates to do so. Once the file is ready, there’s plenty of time to catch up on your reading while the printer slowly puts layer after layer of plastic down to create the desired object. It took 13 hours to create the pair of 9-inch-high horns (which would retail for $45 each) that adorn De Los Angeles’s work in progress.
DIY art toys are not the only use for the technology. Inventors instantly realized that the 3D printer would be an affordable way to create prototypes, and they have been doing so, avoiding the previously expensive costs of machining, injection molds and such. (Unfortunately, some are even using it to make plastic guns that fire real metal bullets.)
De Los Angeles’s pricing makes it possible for just about anyone to produce a tangible facsimile of the idea in his or her head.
Speaking of ideas, CUBO’s owners have plenty of them. Future plans for the store include having smaller printers running in the middle of the place, turning out CUBO souvenirs while you shop. Also in the works are book signings, art shows and new-release parties for limited-edition and unique pieces, in conjunction with the artists.
Ah, progress. Of course, I love the idea that I can produce a 3D file of myself and put a mini-me on the shelf. But I also think that it’s pretty cool that you can still make a phone out of two cans and some string.
Victor De Los Angeles and Julie Kim in their E. 12th St. shop CUBO. Kim is holding a “Worrible,” created by artist Andrew Bell.
CUBO, 521 E. 12th St., 646-370-3351, www.CuboNY.com. To join the mailing list, write to email@example.com.