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December 09, 2016

We tried it: 3-D portrait printing

3-D printing, just in time for Christmas

Art 3-D Printing
Carroll - 3D People Prints Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

PhillyVoice staff writer, Sinead Cummings, left and photographer, Thom Carroll pose with their 3-dimensional portraits from People Portraits 3D.

It used to be an umbrella shop – a place tourists could pop-in between walking tours for a day-saving necessity. Now, the Old City shop located at 20 S. 3rd Street is PeoplePrints 3D, owned and operated by Julian Rinaldi.

A fair share of tourists still stop in, but no longer for a toss-away purchase. Instead, those who walk into Rinaldi's store are looking to take home something more personal -- and definitely more unique than a travel-size umbrella.

PeoplePrints 3D makes life-like figurines through 3-D printing. It's the only one of its kind in the city. Those who wish to be immortalized in a 3-to-9-inch statue need only step into Rinaldi's shop for a few minutes to begin the process. 

In fact, Rinaldi pulled people off the street to build up a window collection of miniature Philadelphians when the shop first opened in August.

Once when he saw members of a wedding party walking through Old City, Rinaldi invited them in for a complimentary 3-D portrait.

Looking at the bridesmaid and groomsman figurines, thoughts jump to wedding cake toppers.

The lightweight replicas seem perfect for the role, but only if the bride isn't superstitious about donning her wedding dress out-and-about before the big day.

Portraits can't be made from flat photos because, well, there needs to be a 3-D subject. That means anyone who wants one needs to come in.

That's how I found myself posing in the middle of PeoplePrints' 360-degree photo booth. One hundred cameras were pointed at me, while LED lights illuminated the space from every angle (to avoid any shadows). 

There wasn't time to be intimidated. Two hundred photos are taken in four seconds.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

PhillyVoice staff writer, Sinead Cummings poses while 100 cameras (mounted in the black vertical strips surrounding her) each take a single color and single black and white photograph.

"The first 100 photos taken are full color. We use those to make the texture that goes over the actual 3-D file," Rinaldi explains. 

"The second 100 photos we take are black and white, with a pattern projected onto the person's body. That makes it easier for the computer to figure out the geometry of the person."

From there, the texture file is overlaid onto the 3-D file. Then the file is printed by the ProJet 660, which is a high-resolution, full-color 3-D printer.

It takes up to 10 business days for the statue to arrive at your doorstep -- longer for overseas deliveries. The price for one, which includes shipping, is $58-$230 depending on the size of the figurine ordered.

Rinaldi, who is originally from New Jersey, first saw 3-D portrait printing when visiting California. He knew he wanted to make a cheaper version on the east coast.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Owner of People Prints 3D, Julian Rinaldi, poses with models of himself to show the different sizes that are available.

The figures are completely hollow, which keeps the cost down, and made from sandstone. The material is found in the middle of sheet rock and feels similar to ceramics.

Just how life-like are they? Forget to iron your shirt and every crease will be visible. Tattoos are crisp and vibrant. If you have long hair, make sure every strand is placed just-so.

Since the 3-D portrait is able to capture so much detail, those who pose should wear something colorful and patterned.

Portraits aren't limited to humans, either. Pets are welcome in the shop. If Fido can sit still for 3-4 seconds, then he can be scanned.

No reservations are necessary when visiting PeoplePrints. The shop is open daily at 11 a.m., except for Monday, when it's closed.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A model of Philadelphia Councilman, Mark Squilla, in a display case at People Prints 3D.