2. Digital bodies



the birth

mind sparkles

I'm fascinated by some contemporary artists that play with the senses on defining what is a human body or figure. I like to think about the limit that we still feel connected in our humanity to these figures and how easy it can turn into some sort of disgust or repulse. Some of the artists: Patricia Piccinini, Antony Gormley, Magriet Van Breevoort, Ron Mueck, Evan Penny.

From my parents I learned to love Fernando Botero since early age, I was always fascinated by the round graceful shapes that he was able to achieve, specially when growing in the 90's when the ruling aesthetic was THIN. Maybe still is today, but a lot has changed.

I had a brain mashup/meltdown combining these sources and my own prejudices towards big or fat bodies. I might have been fatophobic in many different occasions in the past, but with the rise of the body positivity movement I'm becoming more and more aware on how standardized our perception of the human body is. Therefore in this assignment, as soon as I started to explore the MakeHuman software I realized that playing with this limits and exploring new shapes was something that intrigued me and yet created beautiful shapes.

I found very interesting the idea of having this body in a challenging posture, which also immediately made a connection with my yoga practice, and using the radial slices I see it as a prana (universal energy which flows in currents in and around the body) flowing from the throat chakras, known as the creativity as self-expression one.



how did i make this?

Step 1 : creating a body figure

There are many different ways that you can achieve a digital version of a human body, I'm splitting in two options:

a. scan the body

Find a body that inspires you and scan the hell out of it. You can use a hand scanner, for sharpener objects and more precision, like this Sense or a sort of Kinect, like Skanect, that works better when scanning a full room and getting a bigger object. Both of this devices generates a obj file, that can later be used to 3d print or laser cut your digital body.

My head scanned with Sense

using-skanect Cecilia showing us how Skanect works

Both softwares are very easy to use and intuitive, there are not many settings that can be personalised. I belive better results are achieved by creating a clean environment with good light.

b. create a body using MakeHuman software

MakeHuman is defined by wikipedia as a "free and open source 3D computer graphics middleware designed for the prototyping of photorealistic humanoids. It is developed by a community of programmers, artists, and academics interested in 3D character modeling." I would describe more as a freak experience in the world of how standard the human body is portrait. The program allows you to customize a lot of variables, but it definitely lacks deeper scale in most of these variables. In the end is a very standard way to create average bodies. But whose average are we talking about?

I got very intrigued to explore the limits of these variables, plaing with an exagerated oversized and dispropornalized (is this a word?) body version. Estrelite was digitally born here. I couldn't decide if it is a she or he, most of the times I was seeing it a female figure but it could easily oscilate towards a figure of a sumo wrestler or a Buddha, which are usually more masculine depict.

So in terms of gender, I decided not to decide, Estrelite is a it.


documentation mood

make-human-output exports from MakeHuman software

final 3d model

Step 2 : editing your digital body file (or not)

After exporting the body shape in obj file you can manipulate different body parts in Rhinoceros. Since I decided to laser cut the entire body I created, I didn't crop anything and just used a smaller size than a real life proportion to fit the material we had.

Anyway I wanted to understand how Rhino works a bit more and made some cuts into a real body scale standing pose version of Estrelite.

Here is the torso without arms, legs and head: Rhino-screenshot The basics steps I used to achieve this was:

  1. Select the body you are working with
  2. Group everything and then command MashToNurb
  3. Separate Mash and Nurb Bodies
  4. With the nurb you can add objects intersecting on where you want to cut
  5. After having the object blending with the body, command BooleanDifference and follow instructions
  6. Voila, your body is a classic greek sculpture!

Step 3 : transforming a 3d object into 2d slices

After getting the obj file done, it's time to transform the 3D body version into 2D panels that will be laser cutted and after assembled together recreate the 3D figure. In order to do so, we used the Slicer program (stable version).

First step is import your obj file, select the right measurements for the object you want to work with (in my case H 76 x W38 x L90cm) and also set the material dimension you are going to cut. I used the cardboard sheets | 1160mm x 960mm x 3mm, at this step you can trick the program with different material tickness to create more or less space in between your panels.

There are different techniques to be used: Stacked Slices, Interlocked SLices, Curve, Radial Slices and Folded Panels. I choose Radial Slices because it had an immediate connection with the concept of energy flowing and the yoga posture.


  • I wanted to work with a very limited amount of panels/layers, to have the minimum definition possible and trick the viewer in understanding if the object was a body figure or not. But because of the legs and arms were too long, I had to crete more axis/panels to make sure everything got connected and not a lof of loose parts.
  • I found very hard to determine the center position of the radius in throat chakra and yet having a "functioning model". So the center didn't end up exactly where I intended to be.

After selecting the amount and positioning the panels, you need to export them in PDF. Down in the corner on the option GET PLANS. Estrelita is at this stage 3 sheets of cardboard.GET-PLANS

Work your plans - ilustrator

Open your plans on ilustrator to better position your panels in the sheet or to make some correction to any error you might have. After doing so, export each sheet in a different file to be printed in the DXF or AI format (Ai without compression if its coming from ilustrator).

unrelated extraSlicer-errorFolded Panels artsy face!

Step 4 : laser cutting

Together with the cutting plans, I also created a test sheet, with some parts of my own plan.


  1. Get your files in a usb stick
  2. Use the FabLab login in the laser cut computer
  3. Open the Lasercut 53 program
  4. File > import > preview in the bottom (if there is no preview, your file is no go!)
  5. Select all the objects, go to the left menu on "SIZE" - click and show the scale option in mm, ajust your drawing for the right measurements, use ilustrator a reference
  6. To keep the same dimension just change one and click the second "..." button
  7. Set the mode, speed and power intended for each layer color (use the test file to play with different speed x power and find the best one)
  8. Leave corner power at 20 and "Always blow" option in
  9. Go to the machine > Press buttons 1. and 2. to turn on the machine
  10. Place your material in the machine
  11. Select "ESC" > move the laser head in the position top corner left
  12. Check the precise height, untide and tide the screwet thing again
  13. Once is at the exact place as your blue dot in the program then press "Ancor" - set logic ord and press "enter" (so the blue dot is the home origin/ zero point)
  14. Back to the computer - press "DONWLOAD" bottom on the right corner
  15. “Delete all” and “download current”
  16. Back tot he machine click on “file” and “enter”
  17. last step is to test the file: press "test"
  18. Turn the number 3 button to have the laser on
  19. Turn on the ventilation (machine under computer) it should get a green light
  20. Press “START”

Hold your breath, think about good things, when you hear the “Beeep”, is done!!

My specs for this project:

A. I started with speed 400 and power 50 but the laser was not cutting through so I increased to 60 and evetually 65, that worked well, but I have to cut of some of the pannels. My final recco for this material is SPEED 400 AND POWER 70 B. The cardboard was not flat so I had to put some tape to make sure it was at the same height in every point, which was not totally optimal

Step 5 : assembling

Back to Slicer, there are all the assembly steps to guide you in building the object again.

main files for download