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Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To 3D Printed Art

Read this and sound like an expert. Well, sort of.
December 15, 2010, 9:19pm

Here’s a quick reference guide that will seek to explain the trends, terms, and movements of the brave new media world of art and technology. So you can skim, digest, and be a pseudo-expert next time you’re cornered at a Speed Show exhibition in your local cybercafe. Because, hey, life is short and art long. This week: 3D printed art.

So, what is 3D printed art?
Converting a drawing or design created with a computer into a physical object. This process usually uses a machine which manufactures the object one layer at a time using lasers to solidify resin at particular coordinates. Essentially, you’re creating something from nothing—it’s like the opposite of sculpting. And by using this technique you can produce furniture, textiles, and sculptures.

Where did it come from?
3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology that’s been used in research labs for car manufacturers, aerospace companies, and other design-heavy industries for the past 20 years. In recent years the price of 3D printers has dropped significantly, making them more available and their use more widespread by creatives and hobbyists alike. The technology has been taken up by artists looking to build precise objects, such as New York-based artist Roxy Paine, who was making 3D printed art back in 1998 with his SCUMAK (Auto Sculpture Maker) machines, which create pigmented plastic blobs that are spit out onto a conveyor built at varying intervals.

This week you're really digging…
Torolf Sauermann’s topological math art, Bathsheba Grossman’s metallic sculptures and maths models, and Swedish group Front Design’s Sketch Furniture, which are sketched in the air, captured via a motion camera, transformed into a computer model, then printed.

Nano talk
3D printing is truly in its infancy. When the machines become self-aware and the technological singularity bears down upon us, humankind and machine will create art in unison, making for a new cultural movement. Or we’ll just be able to print out really awesome custom designs from the comfort of our own home or the convenience of a nearby Kinko’s.

Describe yourself as…
If the T-1000 had studied under Brancusi.

3D modeling, 3D printing, rapid manufacturing

Difficulty level

Age range

From the abyss, art.

To recap:
The future is polymer.

Next week: App art