Calvin Kam, also known as Darthrith in cyberspace, was a left-handed doodler who became an animator and 3D modeller in university. Surfing the net, Calvin came upon a video of a 3D printer. That was the beginning of his journey into serious 3D modelling and printing, his turning over to The Dark Side.
Ginkgo3D: Tell us a bit about yourself, Calvin.
Calvin: I’m a freelance 3D artist based in Kuala Lumpur, designing 3D graphics for corporate video and television commercial TVC projects. But my other passion is making game art, killer robots and all, you know. Like your average geek, I thoroughly enjoy video games and comics – and I think 3D printing is awesome!
Ginkgo3D: And what is your background?
Calvin: I pursued a degree in film and animation after leaving Victoria institution in 2003 and worked as a designer-on-call for a production company for the oil and gas industry. At the same time, I proceeded to learn game asset creation by myself.
Ginkgo3D: Before you started on 3D printing, did you paint, sculpt or assemble DIY toys?
Calvin: I used to draw comics and doodle a LOT as a kid, but my interests leaned towards 3D modelling and animation as I got into university. Never got to mess around with sculpting much except for a few assignments where I had to create a maquette of a character to be animated in 3D and an artistic sculpture of an insect.
Ginkgo3D: How did you get into 3D printing?
Calvin: The internet! Such a wonderful thing. It’s all a little fuzzy now but I think I saw a video about an Ultimaker kit and it all began there.
Ginkgo3D: What were your first 3D printing projects and were they successful?
Calvin: My first 3D printing projects were actually 1:6 scale figure parts and geeky jewellery printed by a 3D printing service in Europe. After assembling my own Ultimaker (and getting it to work) I just had to print something in 1:1 scale, so I printed a Boba Fett-like helmet I modelled myself.
Messing up the scale aside (it came out slightly smaller and would only fit a child’s head), I think it was a successful project as I learned a lot about troubleshooting both 3D printing hardware and software, filament properties of ABS and post-processing techniques.
Ginkgo3D: Tell us more about the software and hardware you used in your projects.
Calvin: I studied 3D animation in university so I can pick up most 3D modelling software and just get to work, be it Blender, Modo or Maya. My first 3D printer was a first-gen Ultimaker that I had to assemble myself, and although it was a daunting task to get it to work, I learned a lot of the FDM printing basics such as bed levelling, belt tensioning, extruder unclogging, print adhesion and 3D model slicing. Eventually, I acquired a Craftbot from Craftunique and it was a huge upgrade as it came with a heated bed and touch screen LCD controls, eliminating a lot of fiddling and fear of failed prints.
Ginkgo3D: Were there ever times you were frustrated with the results of your 3D designing/printing effort? Ever felt like quitting it?
Calvin: Pretty sure there were such times, but with a little perseverance, anything can be overcome. Every time a print comes out less than satisfactory I’ll just observe the nature of the failure (warping, overhangs, delamination, adhesion to the print bed etc), tweak the slicing options and retry the print!
Ginkgo3D: What was your most satisfying moment in 3D printing?
Calvin: It was the moment a fellow Star Wars fan appeared at the screening of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in a Darth Revan costume complete with the mask I made for him. He enjoyed the mask so much – and that was enough for me.
Ginkgo3D: Do you have a favourite piece you created? I keep associating your work with the Mandalorian mask from Star Wars.
Calvin: The mask is definitely one of my favourites, but I’ll say that the M5 Phalanx pistol from Mass Effect is at the top; it’s my first project where there were interlocking pieces as I wanted the pistol to look like it was made with realistic separate parts and not just a single printed piece with no gaps.
Ginkgo3D: Star Wars is such a big universe. Why Mandalorian?
Calvin: It’s all because of Boba Fett! I’ve always thought that his armour is the coolest thing in Star Wars despite his ridiculous demise in Return of The Jedi. I was also hooked on the game called Star Wars Republic Commando, which featured clone commandos trained by Mandalorians, which brought me to read all the Republic Commando novels as well.
Ginkgo3D: Do you find a demand for your works, since they seem very narrowly focused?
Calvin: There is definitely a demand for geeky accessories and other small items, but not so much for larger items such as weapon and costume props as most people are not willing to pay for design and post-processing costs.
Ginkgo3D: Is Kuala Lumpur an active place in the 3D printing community?
Calvin: Not to my knowledge, no. There is this maker space in KL though; unsurprisingly, it’s called… Makespace. It may not be dedicated to 3D printing but they do hold workshops sometimes. I’m sure there are more enthusiasts out there if you bother to look.
Ginkgo3D: What is your latest project? Will you venture out of the Star Wars Universe?
Calvin: I’m now looking into creating busts/statues of characters in the Warhammer 40K universe! The thing about Warhammer is that everything is in miniature form and I really want to see some of those characters/vehicles/monsters on a larger scale with more detail. Details such as scratches, dents and damage that can be painted on.
Ginkgo3D: As a Designer-For-Hire, what kind of design challenges would like to face the most?
Calvin: As a hard-surface modeller, I think I’d like to tackle more organic designs as opposed to smooth surfaces, clean edges and geometric shapes.
Ginkgo3D: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a 3DP designer?
Calvin: Keep experimenting, exploring and reiterating ideas. Don’t get caught up in just designing, as some ideas need to be printed out and be put into your hands before you understand how it can be made better.
Calvin specialises in hard surface modelling and is available as a Designer-For-Hire to design items such as jewellery, toys, costume props and of course, fan and game art. Get a quote for his services at [email protected] or buy his designs at the.ginkgo3d.com.