The ability to create tangible objects out of nothing but a digital, computerised file has been an increasingly popular technology and even hobby for decades. But what happens when this modern technology is mixed with creating art, a subject as old as civilisation and as personal and familiar to one as the back of their own hand?
Other industries using 3D printing, such as the automotive often use plastic, whereas in the arts rubber, concrete and clay can be used to restore or replicate pieces. By scanning an object or designing it in CAD (Computer Aided Design), individuals can then send this precisely crafted data image to a 3D-printer. For those of you who enjoy something that sparkles, an additional post-production processes exists called electroplating, which involves printing a thin layer of metal such as copper, silver, or gold to further refine the product. Print your own jewellery, anyone? With 3D printed moulds, artists can create larger of complex pieces previously too difficult to produce.
Preserving the Arts
3D printing capabilities allow the possibility of extending the lifetime of an artwork. Creating a CAD file, individuals are able to digitally design an object, which is available even after it’s production. This permits artists of different mediums to share their digitalised work with one another and the public for years. CAD files pieces can be reproduced, and replicas made of favourite artwork, which is invaluable for those who work in restoring artefacts and historical pieces of art.
To Print or not to print?
In the artistic world, 3D printing has gained a mixed reception. Designer and Artist Olivier Van Herpt of the Netherlands is one individual that has embraced additive manufacturing technologies. Among his many projects, he successfully created 3D printed ceramic vases, producing his collection titled 3D Woven Collection. The pieces feature a weave pattern, a product of multiple layers printed on top of one another. However, Van Herpt embraces what others might see as errors, suggesting that irregularities or waves are reminiscent of artisanal ceramic work and connect the modern technology with the traditions of early ceramicists. Meanwhile, other artists do not see a role or need for 3D printing in their processes, placing greater value on the craft of artisanal objects. Eric Landon, a Danish-American ceramicist, prides himself in hand making vases in the heart of his home city, Copenhagen. He believes “there is still a thirst and increasing consumer demand for artisanal, handmade, and one-of-a-kind items.’” It is entirely a personal preference for an artist to choose whether or not to print.
Developed in the 1980s, one can no longer ignore the impact 3D printing maintains in the arts, as it pervades the industry and revolutionises sculpture music, videography, fashion, and even food. By 3D printing, artists and designers save time, costs, and simultaneously establish new methods of creation, forging new paths for artists to come. Yet incorporation of additive manufacturing technologies should not remove the label of ‘art’ on a finished product, as the final pieces developed and printed remain products of an individual or group’s ideas and creative thoughts. The name ‘additive manufacturing’ perfectly describes the process: adding material rather than removing material, and creating something out of nothing to come to a final piece.