Here it is in physical form:
The final product is better than most beta launches. The manufacturing complexity makes it even more impressive, but there is a lot of room for improvement. For 3D printer nerds it is a great progress marker. If you are interested in Mass Customization/Personal Fabrication or are a big fan of your Spore character I would HIGHLY recommend you spend the $75 to have your little monster immortalized in ink sublimated plaster. I’ve been using 3D printers for a long time and this was still an awesome thing to get in the mail. If you are not one of those things I would suggest you wait for a couple key aspects of the service to be improved.
1. 3D Printing Quality
The major problem with 3D printing is the resolution. These Spore models are printed using the latest, top of the line technology that offers the highest resolution and the texture is still pronounced. Compare this to any plastic object in your house and you will see how much further the technology has to go. If you are passionate about 3D printing technology it is easy to overlook, but it disappoints a lot of people.
3D printing dust in the nooks and crannies
These models are made by depositing a mixture of ink and glue onto a white powder. When the printing process is finished a technician has to clean the part. Excess powder can stick in tight spaces permanently, leading to 3D printer toe jam.
3D printing is still awesome
While there is room for improvement, the technology is still REALLY impressive. The ribbing on the creatures horns, and the spikes on the tail are fine details that are superbly executed. Kudos to ZCorp and EA for making sure the little things translated well. Also, the “ears” are about 1.5mm thick and completely hollow, yet still sturdy. It is a small thing, but highlights the capabilities of the 3D printer.
Zcorp: Masters of Color and Detail
2. Ordering experience
The service was fast, I received my character in 4 business days. Other than that it was kind of lackluster. You can’t choose a pose for your character like the similar service FigurePrints allows. Shipping costs are high with all options over $20. The out of the box experience was lame, the character was affixed to a foam pad with two large rubber bands, again paling in comparison to the nice display dome you get from FigurePrints. Not deal breakers, but for $75 you expect a nicer experience.
The marriage of video games and 3D printing/mass customization is going to be huge and this is a great step forward, but a little early for the mass market. As an illustration I brought it into my office and all the engineers said “whoah, cool!” and everyone else said “why is it so dusty?”. If you are on the fence, buy one just so they keep improving the service.