|With only a few colours to choose from |
many simply opted for white
The show was an educational experience in many respects not least for the various opportunities that it offers for artistic expression (and the incredibly large number of IP and other legal issues that this new technology raises).
3D printing is more or less what it says it is, you print layers of a material to build up a structure, layer upon layer. There appeared to be at least three methods of printing. (1) building up layers of the same plastic which is fed in from spools of coloured plastic ‘wire’ (2) a method using powder and mixing the plastic – after two explanations I still don’t really understand how this works and (3) a more traditional ink jet printer approach – these guys considered themselves to be the true 3D printers.
|The Replicator 2.|
Not quite Star Trek (but not far off)
The most common printer on display, MakerBot’s Replicator 2, works by building up layers of plastic (i.e. method 1) but it can only work in the specific colours of the original PLA plastic – mixing of the colour pigments doesn’t seem to be possible yet for this sort of printer. This made for interesting trinkets on display and, more significantly, the potential to develop slightly gaudy prototype models for designers working on everything from toys to space stations. Those at the more traditional end of the creative spectrum had even printed copies of old roman statues in a plain colour and then post processed (i.e. painted) the surface. Not quite Rodin but an intriguing start and it certainly has enormous potential to help sculptors to develop ideas in the same way that it is already helping architects and designers to plan buildings and develop toys.
|3D printed guitar|
Artistic applications ranged considerably from complicated geometric designs which looked incredible the first time but less so by the hundredth, to fashion design – particularly shoes – and a host of fusion items such as mixed ceramics/PLA vases and an incredible piece which looked like a lump of plastic which had been stretched in a number of directions but when viewed through a reflective cylinder showed a hand creeping out in all directions.
|3D printed hand (in reflection)|
Rejuvenation by Jonty Hurwitz
The resolution on the printed items is good but still far from mould quality. For the time being, the technology is not quite detailed enough to be, in my opinion, a viable medium for quality art. However, the potential for using 3D design to develop ideas and explore concepts in three dimensions is extraordinary.
It also opens up huge possibilities for appreciating and reimagining our cultural legacy. Imagine a 3D Starry Starry Night or Matisse’s the Snail, a Picasso line drawing that can move. Some will be extremely tacky but the ability to interact with these artistic works is an educational opportunity that the galleries of the world might like to think about. It is worth remembering that many public galleries’ key works are out of copyright and the ability for third parties to use the works will be difficult.
|There were even 3D foetuses|
taken from ultrasounds!
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