High-end 3D printer art

Torolf 2.jpg
3D printers are great for complex engineering projects, but what happens when you try to get creative with it? Most artists obsessed with digital fabrication opt for milling machines or laser etching--which are cheaper and easier to access--but some have stuck with rapid prototyping (aka rapid manufacturing) because building ultra-precise objects out of nothing is undeniably awesome. Can you imagine if Torolf Sauermann tried to make this snail shell-esque math art using a pottery kiln? (He actually designed it using TopMod, an open source 3D topological mesh modeling system, and then sent the image to a printer for conception.) Keep reading for more examples of 3D printer art by artists, designers, and surgeons whose work has been featured everywhere from high end boutiques to the MoMa.
NY art collective Commonwealth made the body of this mask with light-sensitive plastic in a stereo lithographic printer and then spent 20 hours attaching strands of pony hair to it. "Combining the precision of the masks with horse hair achieves this strange effect that wouldn't be possible by hand," says Commonwealth's Zoe Coombes. This and another green mask like it will be appearing in a still-secret music video this summer.
Freedom of Creation.jpg
Designer Janne Kyttanen made this iPod shoulder bag using laser sintered polyamide. You can actually buy this online at his studio's web site.
New York native Roxy Paine makes cool machines like automatic sculpture maker called the SCUMAK, which spits out randomly-shaped red-pigmented plastic blobs onto a conveyor belt at random intervals.
Karsten Schmidt .jpg
Karsten Schmidt mashed up typography, MRI scans, and 3D printing to make this art for Print Magazine's cover story about kinetic typography.
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Photo: Brad Estes Duke orthopedic surgeon Farshid Guilak used 3D printing to create a mold out of biodegradable poly(e-caprolactone). Using this mold, he can overlay images of a patient's knee or hip joint taken from an MRI scan and simulate the growth of adult human stem cells. "Over time, the stem cells (green) regenerate a new matrix of cartilage, while the original polymer scaffold (red) slowly degrades away and leaves only the natural tissue and cells," he writes.
Ammar Eloueini.jpg
Award-winning architect Ammar Eloueini created this chair, called CoReFab#116, using digital animation software Softimage XSI to capture a moving image frame by frame, and then combining those frames and printing them out on a selective laser sintering machine.
Bathsheba Grossman used a steel and bronze composite material made from sintering powder to create Moon Pi, a puzzle-sculpture made of three interlocking parts held together by compression forces. Grossman used a printing process called Prometal, and was selling these to puzzle collectors until it was deemed too dangerous for the commercial market.

About Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.
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12 Responses to High-end 3D printer art

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is… 3d Chalk Paintings Wow, I never thought anybody could do that! Does it actually look like that when you stand there for real, or does the effect only appear in photos? Because, wouldn’t it look all flat in real life?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bathsheba Grossman makes wonderful things and she is a pleasure to correspond with and order from.

    She was totally cool with the idea that I wanted to use one of her sculptures for hunting rabbits, but when I got it I found it was too beautiful to risk losing in the woods, so I still use plain old rocks.

  3. 3d printer says:

    This is… 3d Chalk Paintings Wow, I never thought anybody could do that! Does it actually look like that when you stand there for real, or does the effect only appear in photos? Because, wouldn’t it look all flat in real life?

  4. Anonymous says:

    3d printing is definately making its rounds in to many different arenas. We are even seeing it create pottery. Once material prices plummet and the software becomes more available and user friendly to the masses (like Google SketchUp is doing) it will be seen all over! You can see some of our projects at http://www.3dventures.com

  5. Anonymous says:


  6. fluidforms says:

    Ammar Eloueini is doing great stuff. We met and exhibited together @ c.stem in italy…

    The chair shows that big things can already be done with additive fabrication methods such as selective laser sintering. but a 3d printed object of that size…uff costs almost the same like a used car…

    Most of the objects shown in the article are created with generative design methods.

    We from Fluid Forms think that the advancement of 3d printing (pushed by great projects such as makerbot or bits from bytes) will go along with an ever stronger influence of generative art and design on digital fabrication. 3d printing and generative design can possibly lead the way not only in art, but also in commercial applications (mass customization!)

  7. Ann Marie says:

    printing is being advanced more by easier and affordable access to both 3D printing (e.g. Shapeways)and 3D software that is less alienating than CAD. These have to develop in tandem to advance.

    We are doing our bit by setting up a crowd sourcing initiative to both fund and create the community that wiil give feed back on the further development of our haptic (virtual touch) sketch modelling software (see http://www.anarkikangels.co.uk). Being able to 3D print the objects created has been a priority.

  8. Garr says:

    @2 actually, it’s more like her second ;)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure many people who follow 3D printing, Boing boing, and Make know about Bathsheba Grossman- her work is incredible, she uses a company called ProMetal that’s in my hometown.

    But someone else just as, if not more prolific, is George Hart- he’s been doing this stuff for a while, and his site is an amazing collection of 3D art of all kinds- printed too. If I remember correctly, Grossman has used some of his designs.


    Check it out- you won’t be dissapointed!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wait “and was selling these to puzzle collectors until it was deemed too dangerous for the commercial market.” what?

    Toxic material or potential mechanical bomb? What was Bathesheba worried about?

  11. BCJ says:

    Cool. Definitely an interesting first post. Welcome to BoingBoing.

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