Cosmetics Meets Technology: 3D Print Any Color Makeup From Your Computer

Story by Ruth Kim. 

Ladies, ever scroll through Tumblr or Pinterest and see a lip color that you’re just dying to have? Or maybe you accidentally drop your eye shadow case and the palette bursts into a thousand, tiny particles (isn’t that the worst?), and you need a replacement ASAP.

Well, with the Mink printer, these dreams may soon come true.

Grace Choi, a former MBA student at Harvard Business School, is introducing a gadget that may just shake up (and piss off) the makeup industry: a mini 3D inkjet printer that prints real, usable makeup in the comfort of your own home.

Choi, who calls herself a “serial inventor,” debuted a proof-of-concept demo of the Mink printer at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week. She launched her presentation with this bold claim: “The makeup industry makes a whole lot of money on a whole lot of bullsh–.”

Summarized by Choi in simple terms, all makeup is made of are cheap raw material substrates that are mixed with varying shades of pigment. Cheaper and more accessible makeup products, sold at a Walmart or CVS, only come in colors that will sell in masses. More unique “niche” shades are sold at exponentially higher prices at Sephora or makeup counters. Who wants to pay that kind of money? “No one, that’s who,” Choi says.

So this is where the Mink 3D printer comes in. The gadget essentially turns the internet into an “endless beauty aisle,” says Choi. From any YouTube channel, Pinterest board or Facebook photo, makeup enthusiasts can select a shade, use a color picker to copy the exact hex code, click print, and voila. But you’ll just have to see it to believe it. Watch Choi’s demo in this video.

When all is said and done, Choi will initially sell the mini printer at the retail price of $300. We’re just simply fascinated at the endless possibilities that technology can offer.


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Asian American Novel Debuts World’s First-Ever 3D Printed Book Cover

First there were 3D movies. Then there were 3D televisions and game systems. Now, apparently, there are 3D book covers.

Riverhead books released “the first-ever 3D printed slipcover” for On Such A Full Sea by Korean American author, Chang-rae Lee. As you can see, the edges are slowly rising as if you were looking at the coverslip with 3D glasses.

So what’s the point of a 3D book cover? As far as we can tell, the main purpose is aesthetics. The cover looks unique and makes for a nice limited edition collector’s piece. After all, how often can you say you have something thats been 3D printed?

According to Time, each coverslip took about 15 hours to print. As cool and innovative as it sounds, Time has pointed out some difficulties with the product such as its bulkiness and inability to properly fit on a bookshelf. And let’s not forget that the price of this thing is $150. (Don’t worry, you can purchase regular copies of the novel for normal prices.)

book cover

While we’re not quite certain if we’re ready to dish $150 on this book cover, we admit that this is some really advanced work. This is perfectly fit for a novel which focuses on a futuristic dystopian America. Even if you’re not appealed by the 3D printed book cover, you should look into the novel itself.

According to Polymic, “Lee has just published his fifth novel, On Such a Full Sea, a dystopian story of a post-climate change and post-racial America, and he is finally getting the attention he deserves. In fact, he’s just written a novel so sensitive to the plight of Asian Americans in America that it may well come to be the Great Asian American novel.”

When Fan, a 16-year old girl who is part of the the small percentage who live in luxurious gated communities, leave her safe confines and ventures into the “counties,” she threatens to break the system.

“This is not the first or even most incisive dystopian vision of America,” Gracie Jin of Polymic writes. “But it is the first in which the role of Asian Americans is crucial, the first in which betrayal — especially of one’s own history and family and past — moves its talons over the immigrant story. By writing American dystopia with Chinese-American protagonists, Lee asserts not only that Asian immigrants have been a part of the history and making of America (an oft told immigrant narrative), but also that they have a stake in the future of America.”

AUDREY’S WOMEN OF INFLUENCE | Ping Fu, Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of 3D Systems

Story by Ada Tseng.


While speaking about her new memoir, Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, a story that follows the author’s disgrace as a “black element” during China’s Cultural Revolution to her rise as a successful tech CEO in the U.S., entrepreneur Ping Fu often wore a pair of eye-catching, hot pink platform heels to interviews and publicity events. The shoes, made by 3D printers and designed by Janne Kyttanen, creative director of 3D Systems, were lightweight, machine-washable and customized to fit Fu’s feet perfectly. One of the pairs even had a special pocket on the side to hold an iPhone.

“Shoes are the ultimate science-meets-art object,” says Fu, a pioneer of 3D imaging software technology. “We all like shoes to be beautiful, but they are also, scientifically, very difficult to make. They have to have the perfect balance, shape and form for how each individual walks, things that are very difficult for a computer to interpret. But because everyone can relate to them, they show that life and technology are not two different things. Technology must transcend humanity to touch people’s lives.”

In addition to shoes, Fu often wears 3D-printed jewelry and carries 3D-printed bags, not only because she embraces being a female executive in technology, known for being a young man’s world, but also because the 50- something believes that you have to live and experience what you create in order to know how to take your creation even further.

While 3D printing has been around for decades — Fu started her company Geomagic in 1997 after seeing a 3D printer print a solid object for the first time — it’s only been in the last couple of years that the industry has exploded into the mainstream.

“This is the most exciting time for advanced manufacturing,” says Fu. “Not a day goes by where there isn’t news of another major company using 3D printing to enhance its business model.”

This is not the first time Fu has been at the forefront of technological innovation. While working at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in the ’90s, she was part of the initial team working on the software project NCSA Mosaic that ended up becoming Netscape, the first widely used Web browser that made a tech star out of Fu’s colleague, Marc Andreessen. When Fu decided to build her own company, she opted out of starting a then-trendy dot-com, instead searching for a project that would utilize her background in visual computing.

“I was really hooked by the 3D printers,” says Fu, who believes her interest in manufacturing goes way back to her pre-teen and teen days building radios and making car parts in Chinese factories. “I did some research and realized there were a lot of 3D scanners and 3D printers, but what was missing at the time was some sort of 3D software that fit in between. That was the beginning of what I thought Geomagic should be.”

At one of her first investor conferences, Fu asked the crowd to imagine your kid printing out his first sculpture; an orthopedic surgeon printing a 3D model of your prosthetic knee a week before your surgery; walking into a shoe store, getting your foot scanned and returning the next day for your custom- fitted boots. Soon enough, others had visions for how this type of technology could help their own industries.

“All of these were just ideas, and I said that Geomagic would turn these ideas into reality,” Fu remembers. She laughs. “Frankly, at that point, I did not know that it could happen. Little did I know how long it would take to turn the very difficult technology into reality.”

Now Fu believes that 3D printing is even bigger than the Internet. While the Internet changed how we display and share data, 3D printing would allow us to use data to make tangible objects. With the trifecta of 3D scanners, software and printers becoming more and more accessible, mass production (which has long been outsourced to factories abroad) will be replaced with mass customization (which will be distributed locally, near customers).

“In the next few years, I believe that we will fundamentally disrupt how things are designed and manufactured, and this will have an impact on everybody’s lives,” says Fu. “Products will be more customized, service more personable, manufacturing will be distributed and products made locally, and it’ll be more green because we’ll make less of what we don’t want and we’ll ship fewer things overseas.”

In fact, in 2010, she was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship run by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and one of her current goals is to focus on how 3D printing can help create more jobs domestically, while simultaneously opening up a more genuine cultural exchange internationally.

Back in 2005, when Fu was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine, some advised her to take advantage of her initial hype and sell Geomagic to the highest bidder. Instead, Fu elected to take her company to the next level, and it wasn’t until February 2013 that she sold Geomagic to 3D Systems, founded by Chuck Hull, the inventor of the first 3D printing machine. It was a homecoming for Fu, as it was Hull’s presentation that had inspired Fu to start Geomagic in the first place.

Now the chief strategy officer and vice president of 3D Systems, Fu continues to “write software for the future not yet imagined,” as she first fantasized when she decided to study computer science as a new immigrant in America. Fast forward to the present: “Today Invisalign, an orthodontic treatment without wires and brackets, is printing 65,000 custom aligns per day,” she says. “Soon enough, we’ll be ordering our own customized shoes.

“It’s going to come quickly, like a fresh wave washing up the shore,” says Fu. “And I just think it’s really exciting.”

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WHO INFLUENCES PING FU? When asked who influences her, Ping Fu rattles off a long list of names, from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, Sir Harold Evans to Michelle Obama. But it’s Chuck Hull who she calls the greatest mentor of all time. “Thirty years ago, he printed the first 3D printed part,” says Fu. “To put it into perspective, at that time, Macintosh had not been released, and there was no direct connectivity of 3D modeling software to 3D printers, so the fact that he could even print a part was a miracle. And he’s still in the company! Talk about resilience and tenacity. Chuck is the hero. Without him, we would not have this technology today.”


This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here