I've often wondered if one way to solve my busy-life problems would be to clone myself. I took a step towards that by having a 3D printed miniature replica of myself made to hold my position in the world's smallest queue at the Spark store on Queen St.

We've all seen those crazy people who camp out for days so they can be the first to get their hands on a new piece of technology.

Now, technology has a better solution - get your mini-me to stand in line for you so you can go off and do more fun things in life.

The process started with me standing on what looked like an oversized spinning cake decorating table which slowly rotated my body clockwise while a Star Trek-like scanner was waved over me.


The scanner was shooting perfectly vertical beams of light on to my body, creating a zebra style light effect which was captured by cameras on the scanner.

If I was perfectly flat, the stripes would remain vertical and this would be a very boring project. But I'm full of curves, resulting in the stripes bending and changing in width and thickness correlating to my body contours.

The cameras measured these changes and converted them into a mathematical mesh which was sliced up using software to create hundreds of individual horizontal layers representing a 3D copy of the surface of my body.

The whole body-scanning process took less than a minute and showed me a future of tailored clothing being easily designed to fit individuals by simple body shape scanning.

Next, my model was printed into a solid object using a 3D printer.

Instead of printing one layer of ink on to a sheet of paper a 3D printer prints several layers of material on to a sheet of metal.

I'm a big fan of 3D printing, using it in my research and at home, where I have a personal 3D printer which I use to replace broken things around my house and to make gifts for friends.

Instead of plastic, my miniature self was printed from a plaster of paris type of material. A roller spread a very thin sheet of plaster powder over a flat plate then a printer head printed a coloured solidifying chemical ink in the shape of the first scanned mesh layer onto the powder sheet.


The ink instantly solidified and glued the powder particles together, creating a thin solid slice matching the shape of the heels of my shoes which was the bottom layer of my body scan.

Another layer of powder was then spread on top of the first one, chemically printed on to create the shape of the next mesh layer and the process repeated until hundreds of layers were printed in just a few hours.

The final fun stage involved diving my hands into a big box of loose white unsolidified powder searching for my solid model treasure lying in the bottom of the box. The loose powder was thrown back into the machine to be reused for the next print job and my mini-me was dipped into a finishing chemical bath making it less brittle and boosting the colour.

So that's it - in under 12 hours I was scanned, printed, replicated and put to use somewhere different to my physical location.

Watch out world, an army of tiny queuing Nanogirls might be coming to a town near you soon.