Gamers champion sustainable towns: designed in Minecraft, 3D printed by Mimaki

Minecraft, the popular sandbox video game created by Swedish developer Mojang, is using 3D printing to bring the most innovative and sustainable creations of its younger player base to life. 

Partnering with the European division of Mimaki, a Japanese manufacturer of inkjet 3D printers, and a French government administration, Minecraft has delivered a nationwide competition in France, focusing on raising awareness of social and environmental issues amongst young people. The competition, which began last year, asked young players to create a sustainable town in Minecraft using the game’s block-building mechanics. Over 1,200 entrants tried their hand at the challenge, with some being as young as thirteen.

Using the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full-colour 3D printer, the competition organizers were able to 3D print an intricate model of the winning design, realizing it in vivid detail. The model was gifted to the victor in October 2019, marking a year since the competition originally began.

“As a company which has long been committed to preserving the environment and finding solutions for greener products, this competition was an absolute honour to be a part of,” explains Thierry Lim, Area Sales Manager, Mimaki. 

“It has been very inspiring to see so many conscientious and visionary young people engaging with technology to explore environmental solutions and imagine living spaces with sustainability at the core.”

The overall winner, Louis Varin, was presented with Mimaki's 3D printed model as part of the grand prize this October. Photo via Mimaki.
The overall winner, Louis Varin, was presented with Mimaki’s 3D printed model as part of the grand prize this October. Photo via Mimaki.

3D printing the Cities and Territories of tomorrow

Named “Villes et Territoires de demain”, translating to Cities and Territories of tomorrow, the competition was judged by a panel of professionals from different industries. This ranged from Microsoft and IGN executives to architects, social media influencers and government officials from France’s ‘Ministère de la Cohésion des Territoires et des Relations avec les Collectivités Territoriales‘.

The Minecraft competition primarily asked participants to focus on creating innovative solutions for an array of pertinent social and environmental issues, however it also paid attention to design, artistic quality and originality. A set of entry criteria was established for each Minecraft town design: they all had to foster biodiversity; optimize water and energy management; improve quality of life; and provide solutions for fighting the climate crisis. 

Furthermore, a walk-through of each entry had to be published on YouTube by its creator. The judges then considered the level of public engagement generated by the vidoes on the platform when they chose the final winner. Judges named a total of nine winners across four categories: Young Individuals, Young Teams, Adult and Professional Teams, and Educational Projects. There was also an additional ‘Audience Prize’ and overall ‘Special Jury Prize’. 

The overall winner was named Louis Varin, and was aged 16. For Varin’s winning Minecraft town, he was provided with a 3D printed model of the town’s virtual map as part of the grand prize. Minecraft’s creators have a history of utilizing 3D printing and models to help realize the creations of its players. In April 2017, Mojang released the “Discovery” update for Minecraft, which allowed users to 3D print parts of their low-poly creations

The winning minecraft town model 3D printed. Photo via Mimaki.
The winning minecraft town model 3D printed. Photo via Mimaki.

Bringing Minecraft to life with full-colour 3D printing

3D printing the winning model proved a difficult process, as it required a conversion of the detailed design from Minecraft, a virtual video game, into a 3D printable model. Overall, this process took over 19 hours. 

The capabilities of Mimaki’s 3DUJ-553 3D printer allowed the details of the Minecraft town design to be captured in full-colour. Launched at Formnext 2017, the 3DUJ-553 is based on the same UV inkjet technology as Mimaki’s 2D printers. A full-colour 3D printer, it has the potential of printing in 10 million possible color combinations. It uses a proprietary 3D printing method combining a traditional inkjet print head with an economical UV-LED lightsource.

The system is also compatible with water-soluble support material, which allowed the Minecraft competition organizers to 3D print Varin’s model and easily remove the supports, without breaking any small parts. Overall, this allowed the creation of a final model that accurately captured Varin’s original designs. “To be able to push technology even further and actually bring the participants’ designs to life in front of their eyes is a real privilege – and that is entirely down to the capabilities of the 3DUJ-553. With these young people already imagining the kinds of innovations which might shape their futures, it is exciting to be able to share with them the cutting-edge advances in 3D printing technology,” adds Lim. 

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Featured image shows the winning minecraft town model 3D printed. Photo via Mimaki.