ST. CHARLES – George Walrath said he only knows of two other businesses worldwide that are offering consumers what he and his team are producing at Charlestowne Mall.
Through a combination of photography, computer wizardry, creativity and a printer that uses a gypsum-based powder instead of paper, 3D FigureWorks can create a figurine with your likeness.
“It’s really you,” Walrath said.
The North Aurora resident was first introduced to a 3-D printer eight years ago. At that time, he said, it was used for business applications, such as models and prototypes. He was interested in connecting it with consumers, he said.
He began developing a business concept about three years ago, and everything came together about six months ago.
3D FigureWorks opened on the lower level of Charlestowne Mall near the center atrium before Thanksgiving.
There, people can get miniature, 3-D versions of themselves as a magnet, ornament and figurine. Walrath and his team can make chess pieces and other customized orders.
“We wait every day for the customer with the next great idea,” Walrath said.
Although the printer is confined to a 12-by-15-by-8-inch box, Walrath said products aren’t confined to those dimensions.
“If you have an idea,” he said, “we can bring it to life.”
The process starts with the subject posing in front of a green backdrop. A set of eight cameras is rigged to go off simultaneously, capturing different angles of the subject’s face. A computer then analyzes the photos and combines them to create a 3-D image.
Dominic Vallone, another owner, models the image for printing, which could include the addition of a Santa hat and other customizations.
The printer operates like an inkjet printer. But instead of spraying ink on paper, it sprays colored glue on thin layers of powder.
Using a small vacuum, Walrath on Thursday uncovered a few recently printed items.
“Out of the powder comes the product,” he said, holding up an ornament and refrigerator magnet.
He said the items will be dipped into a substance such as superglue. This hardens the products and brings out their color, he said.
With this technology, Walrath said, brides and grooms can have wedding cake toppers that look like themselves, trophies can bear the recipients’ likeness, and the portrait itself could be revolutionized.
“We’re just hoping people do like it,” he said.