3D Printing: The Future of Art and Design
3D printing seems to be one of the newest, most unbelievable technological advances the world has seen in a while. A 3D printer gives its users the ability to create anything in their wildest dreams. You create whatever you want or need on a three-dimensional designing computer program. Then, when hooked up to a printer, all you have to do is click print and, within an array of hours depending on your project, your creation is ready for pickup. The products can be printed in a variety of materials—plastics, rubbers, and metals included—making the possibilities endless. Building a cabinet and ran out of screws? Well, instead of going to the hardware store, you can print them from your home. Want to make a three-foot hyper realistic sculpture of a canary? All you have to do is design it and press print. Although 3D printers are still too pricey to be bought for personal use unless you’re the Wolf of Wall Street, everyone is trying to get their hands on the technology behind these 3D printing microwave machines. The printers are getting used by doctors to make surgical equipment, construction workers for tools, architects to print accurate models of future building plans and, get this; they’ve even been used by NASA to print tools in rockets while travelling through outer space. And, above all, you know something is pretty awesome if it gets mentioned on Futurama (“Forty Percent Leadbelly”).
Although the first prototype for a 3D printer is reported to be made in 1982 by Japanese technician Hideo Kodama, the first working 3D printer was made two years later by Charles Hull who patented the product in the United States. Hull worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the university worked with his creation throughout the 80’s and 90’s to perfect its abilities. The printer did not gain popularity, however, due to its price tag; the printers were too expensive to manufacture and ship. Years later, MIT allowed certain companies to start mass producing the printers in 2010, which dropped the assembly prices tremendously and allowed the printers to sell more easily. Today, printers vary with quality at a multitude of prices ranging from $3,200 to $800,000. They are surging in popularity today and are quickly being bought by individuals, universities, and industries wanting to take advantage of its freelance design opportunities and endless potential.
The technology is drastically re-imagining every industry it touches. Recently, it has hit is the art and fashion world, its potential and adaptability inspiring many. Artists are printing statues instead of traditionally sculpting them; Jewelry designers are creating their works digitally rather than by hand. 3D printing is flipping the traditional way of doing things on its head, allowing artists more options and designers a limitless landscape for their creations. One of the newest innovators are The Laser Girls, two NYU students who decided to take advantage of their university’s high-end industrial printers. As studio art students working with 3D printing and having a large interest in fashion, The Laser Girls decided to mix these dimensions and enter a realm never seen before in the 3D art world; they began designing and creating 3D printed wearable nails. Being printed in metals and plastics, their nails are aesthetic, wearable pieces that embody glamour and artistic flair. They are pieces of art but are also functional and show expertise in 3D printing technology and engineering, mixing different disciplines together to create an over the top, colorful manicure.
The Laser Girls are just one example of artists who are taking advantage of 3D printing technology. At themost recent Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 3D printed pieces rocked the runway. All the models were equipped with intricate 3D printed wings, putting a twist on the signature look of the famous angels. There was even an angel sporting 3D printed lingerie. Printed in a malleable nylon, the model walked in a snowflake inspired lace design that did not rip, tear, or fall apart while being maneuvered in. Does this mean that soon our clothes will be 3D printed? 3D printing has strongly hit the fashion accessory scene; maybe it will become the core of the fashion industry in the future. There are multiple designers such as Miguel Vogel, Bryan Oknyansky and Marieka Ratsma who are already using the printers to make high-end, super theatrical footwear. Even Nike is jumping on their bandwagon as they begin prototyping and creating 3D printed running shoes and cleats in fantastic colors and styles.
It is obvious that 3D printing is adding a dimension to the art world that was unpredictable before the technology was created. But being able to design and print digitally also skews traditional practices of the art world and takes some of its fundamental aspects away. Artists no longer have to harness their skills to sketch the finest detail, sculpt the perfect jaw line of a face, and morph clay with their hands. In a way, printing builds a wall between artists and their creations; it makes the art less about the handiwork and more about the product. It changes the look of the art world—instead of standing in front of a canvas contemplating color and stroke, artists are hunched over computers staring at a three-dimensional grid. Both are creating, but art as a product of the hand and human may become a part of the past. If all art becomes digitally prototyped and created, will art be as genuine? In a world where a piece can be identically duplicated with ease, will there be any more traveling art exhibits displaying lauded “originals”? The long term effects of the printers are still unknown; 3D printing leaves many questions that can only be answered with time. Hopefully the art world will be able to integrate the new technology while keeping the aspects that make it unique as an industry and important to the many cultures of the world.
Still, the amazing technological advancement cannot only be seen in a negative light. For innovators of the 3D printing world, there are no limits. They all seem determined to take this technology and exploit it as much as possible, creating beautiful, functional and fashionable works. Outside the art world, creative innovations are also being produced. It seems that 3D printing is one of the only things that can bring artists, doctors, and businessmen together; they all have a need to produce, a desire to create, a craving to discover. These printers give the hope of an exciting future, allowing people to be successful and lauded for their imagination and creative insight more easily than the traditional artist. As long as the gun industry doesn’t shut down the industry (keep your fingers crossed), it will be an amazing ride to watch 3D printing develop and grow as its creators begin to push the limits of this new innovative technology. And, maybe one day, 3D printing will become as commonplace, speedy and simple as Futurama makes it out to be.
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