Objocopiers scan 3D objects, enabling artists and designers to send a blueprint of an object through media from one place to another. Their creation of an opensource platform  enables collaboration between creatives. Makers Rob Black, from Real Space, and Dave Weaver, from Maiku are OpenMaker finalists, working in collaboration with LJMU Art and Design School to bring the Objocopier into the creative community.

When Rob Black’s university was bulldozed, his access to workshop equipment was suddenly cut. A frustrating battle to source elements or equipment that he needed to make things ensued. Rob’s attention quickly turned to makerspaces. Having met Dave whilst studying a psychology PhD at university, the two united to create what would eventually become the Objocopier – a professional self-contained scanner which would connect Liverpool’s diverse creative community, encouraging it to share prototypes.

“We worked with universities on makerspaces and placed a particular importance on making sure there was a 3D printer, as well as range of other equipment available,” says Rob.

“We got to the stage where we had good group interest in virtual augmented reality, and we wanted to look at where things are harder to achieve, make and develop than perhaps they should be. We wanted to explore other possibilities that a makerspace could offer.”

By securing specialist equipment, the space became more technically-specific and open access than other makerspaces the pair had visited. It was once Fab Lab’s James Nixon got involved that the creative juices began to bear fruit, as they all shared vision and belief that Liverpool is a region of industry, making and innovation.

“There’s a fantastic quality of life in Liverpool,” says Rob. “I moved here 15 years ago, and the city’s maker spaces are very technically adept. We were really impressed by Make Liverpool [the LES] – it’s a brilliant example of why we should have public access to tools.

“Liverpool has got a very creative but fragmented maker eco-system, and the Objocopier project further enables people to collaborate otherwise – so, maybe a techie designer might work with a fabric maker or a taxidermist for instance,” he says.

Objocopiers are 3D scanners which operate by putting a person or an object on a rotating plinth, which takes hundreds of photographs via six high tech cameras on a rotary arm. The data is then automatically processed by a photogrammetry app on the scanner itself and shared to a local cloud, which can be accessed by all collaborators. With a broad appeal across the maker industries, the Objocopier aims to unite the creative community across the city – some of which aren’t the most natural of fits – to create a platform of open source ideas and innovations that can be accessed to further the development of Liverpool’s creative and tech scene.

“The aim is to remove the ‘don’t know’ about the 3D scanning phenomena,” says Rob.

“So that people – including technophobes – making beautiful handcrafted objects, can input it digitally into one site, and a ‘hologram’ type 3D image can appear in a different site, through a technique involving an ingenious combination of an iPad and a number of screens, so giving the object a 3D form.

“This then enables the projected item to be worked on and reproduced by a manufacturer or collaborator in a different location. We want it to be a very social process, and we can scan anything from the microscopic to the gigantic,” says Black.

Attracted by OpenMaker’s promise to scale up a project and process, the team behind Objocopier attended the event at Sensor City to learn more. “We thought it was really interesting as there was a decent sized grant attached to the programme, which would actually allow us to do something,” says Rob.

“If this takes off, then we will be able to make a bunch of Objocopiers in different places, which could potentially be a large-scale, financially viable business bringing in jobs and income to the city.”

The team behind the Objocopiers have three desired outcomes from the OpenMaker process: the integration of all technologies in one place to make their plan a reality; to ignite passions whilst allowing people to make ends meet; and to prove that failure isn’t necessarily the worst outcome… “We want to provide a space where makers and innovators are allowed to fail,” says Rob. “For instance, people with Asperger’s are doing much better in Silicon Valley than anywhere else – it’s difficult to achieve these things within the constraints of academia, where there traditionally hasn’t been much support.”

Commenting on how OpenMaker can help the business in its early stages, Rob adds: “The programme provides legitimacy to our project as we’re believed in, with financial support. It’s been lovely working through out application, as there has been so much support and feedback involved.

“The tie in with Industry 4.0 is great, and there’s been tons of events with the execution of big things for the region – it’s deliverable in a way that people can use. As a group we want to join this circle by essentially bringing the iPhone of 3D scanners, where it’s easy enough for someone to press scan and have something made, in a way that’s accessible for everyone.”