Lipstick is physical. The brand I use (probably shouldn't name it here, but you'll figure it out) is fantastic. High-quality, sassy, potent. The casings, however, are all sleek, identical, bland. When I'm using lipstick, it's because I'm being social and fun, and I want casings to match.
It's high time to customize my favorite accessory. I'm thinking old-school glamour, like vintage bejeweled compacts. The software element is a challenge, but one which can be mastered with a little creativity and the right lipstick.
Step 1: Intricate Patterns
One of the amazing things about 3D printing is the ability to make shapes that are impossible, impractical, or at least prohibitively expensive for traditional manufacturing methods. Since I work in computer manufacturing, I at least have a reasonable grasp on the capabilities of traditional methods and none of them can accomplish what I want to do.
Step 2: Insert Software Genius Here
Being a mechanical engineer, not a software engineer, I don't have the capability to build my own 3D modeling tool from scratch and the available 3D modeling packages don't seem to have what I need for this. I started down the path of learning a 3D package but quickly got frustrated with trying to even express simple ideas, let alone the intricate images I had in mind.
Fortunately, I know a few geek boys. One in particular (instructables name: LabRat) had also already done a similar project, a tool for making models from images (see this insane Mazeball Padlock). He's reasonably good-looking and wickedly smart when it comes to 3D math. Getting him to take on a new side-project was even easier than I expected it to be. Find an excuse to have lunch, let him tell you about his project for a while, switch the topic to lipstick, and then eventually hint that you're wondering if his tool would be able to get the job done.
He seemed pretty sure it would. By the end of lunch, he was convinced he could get his software changed over in an afternoon. That wasn't entirely true. It took about two weeks. (Everything programmers do takes about two weeks, for some mysterious reason.)
Step 3: Digital Lipstick Case Outline
Step 4: Easy 2D Design Iterations
Step 5: Building the 3D Model
News update: He's made a web-hosted version of the software. You can try it here: http://lipstick.machinelevel.com
Happy with my design, the software kicks out an STL file that I then uploaded to Shapeways. Having decided that metal, although cool, was much too expensive, I settle on various colors of the inexpensive plastics readily available from their website.
Step 6: Final 3D Fab(ulous) Fashion Accessory
Not only can I tell them apart in my purse just by feel, but they provide color, texture, fun and flair to my personal favorite accessory! I've even posted a few to the Shapeways site for anyone who wants to try them out: http://machine-level.com/fab/shoplinks.php