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.
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 mashed up typography, MRI scans, and 3D printing to make this art for Print Magazine's cover story about kinetic typography.
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.
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.