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3D Printed Art – How 3D Printing Makes Its Way into Creativity

Picture of Narée Asherian
by Narée Asherian
Jul 17, 2019

Over the years, the mediums available to create art have expanded. Now, with 3D printing technology, the options are seemingly limitless.

3D Printed Art How Do Art and Technology Go Hand-in-Hand?

Other additions can be utilized in 3D printed art, such as light!
Other additions can be utilized in 3D printed art, such as light! (Source: i.materialise)

Artists are renowned for their creativity and innovation. Throughout history, we’ve seen art adapt to changes in technology. With that said, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most to find that they’ve embraced 3D printing technology with open arms.

With a 3D printer, an artist has the means to create anything they want — yes, anything! This technology has been introduced to almost every single branch of the art world, and the end products are astounding. Read on to see what these artists have been up to.


3D Printed Art Visual Arts

Harker's scans produce intricate sculptures.
Harker's scans produce intricate sculptures. (Source: Joshua Harker)

Perhaps the most obvious of the art forms to utilize 3D printing technology are visual arts. 3D printed art installations, sculptures, and more can be found virtually anywhere. 3D printing gives these artists more freedom to create complex structures that would otherwise be almost impossible to make, or extremely time-consuming and difficult. It also puts the power of creation into the hands of the artists, since they don’t need specialized skills to physically make the 3D printed pieces, just some CAD design know-how and a 3D printer.

These are a few of the most unique projects we found:

  • Joshua Harker: Harker is responsible for the 3D printed, sugar-like skulls you’ve probably seen online. Not only that, but he’s also considered the father of 3D printing art due to his innovative approach to sculpture design; he is famous for combining CT and 3D scans to create stunningly accurate plastic facial/skeletal structures. On his website, he writes his “art is about pushing the limits of form & dimensions to share visions… an exploration into what can be made and how to accomplish it in an effort to tell a story or create an experience.”
  • Kate Blacklock: Sculpture doesn’t stop at just plastic filaments. Blacklock uses clay to make 3D printed pottery. Her mesmerizing work includes many cutouts and delicate patterns done with the accuracy of a 3D printer and the vision of a creative genius.
  • Danny van Ryswyk: van Ryswyk designs whimsical, nightmarish figures, prints them, paints them by hand, and places them carefully in ornate glass display cases. He uses a polyamide filament to bring his fantastical creations to life as opposed to sculpting by hand because he claims printing improves the clarity and accuracy of the image he wants to form.

3D Printed Art Music

A voice print by Azzaro.
A voice print by Azzaro. (Source: Gilles Azzaro)

3D printed art isn’t just limited to museum installations — artists of different Fine Arts disciplines have found ways to embrace 3D printing in their own divisions. With the rise of 3D printing, musicians may soon see their instruments and tools built more elaborately and quickly than previously available.

  • Gilles Azzaro: Have you ever wondered if you could make a sound permanent? French artist Gilles Azzaro did, and he made it possible through 3D printing. He takes voice recordings of sound waves and transforms them into tangible structures through 3D printing. Some of his best-known works are the cries of his dear friend’s newborn baby and Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.
  • Olaf Diegel: A sound engineer and professor-turned 3D printer guru, Diegel took his love for music and used it to create ODD Guitars, his own line of customizable 3D printed electric guitars. Diegel is incredibly open about his creative process and explains on his website how his guitars come to be.
  • 3DMusicBoxCustom: Music meets 3D printing in a delightful hybrid, thanks to Etsy seller 3DMusicBoxCustom. According to their product details, the music boxes are printed using PLA and can be customized from the color of the box down to the melody.

3D Printed Art Theater

Wasp engineers with a 3D printed model of historic buildings.
Wasp engineers with a 3D printed model of historic buildings. (Source: Wasp)

Because theatre is such a broad arts discipline, it’s no wonder they can truly take advantage of what 3D printing has to offer. Since it’s now possible to 3D print buildings and houses, the theatre industry decided to use that technology to print their own “housing” in the form of set pieces and props. Difficult-to-make costume pieces can now be created in hours, no matter how elaborate the design may be. It’s evident that from set design to costuming, the world of theatre is applauding every printed piece.

  • Wasp in Opera: Wasp engineers printed eye-catching, life-sized set pieces for Opera Theater’s production of Fra Diavolo. These pieces could change the entire future of set design, making even the wildest pieces come to life in a matter of weeks.
  • ASU’s Printed Costuming: The theater students at Arizona State University have all the resources to build their own costume pieces, thanks to the school’s mkrspace facility. In this building, actors and technicians alike can create whatever elaborate adornments they need for their projects without having to spend inordinate amounts of money.

3D Printed Art Dance

These pointe shoes should help reduce pain dancers experience.
These pointe shoes should help reduce pain dancers experience. (Source: Bezalel)

Dance is perhaps the most surprising Fine Arts discipline to adopt 3D printing, since most everything about it is done with the body.* However, the tools given to dancers often do more harm than good. In particular, the shoes they must wear for hours on end each day, which can cause bleeding and bruising. One artist recognized this problem and found a way to improve the world of ballet as we know it.

  • Hadar Neeman: Pointe dance is beautifully deceptive. The seemingly effortless style comes from years of strength-building and can leave permanent damage on a dancer’s feet. The existing pointe shoes on the market do not offer much support to remedy the toll they take on the foot, so Neeman set out to fix it. She had dancers scan their feet to create a perfectly-fitted shoe made of printed elastomeric polymer, which is three times stronger than current shoes on the market.

* To reiterate, all projects in the theater section are also applicable to the dance section, as theater is inherently part of dance. This includes set design and costuming.


3D Printed Art Cinema

Studio DBLG's
Studio DBLG's "Bears On Stairs". (Source: media.boingboing.net)

In addition to using the aforementioned 3D printed costuming and props/set pieces, cinematography utilizes 3D technology in quite a few of their branches. Because 3D printing allows for precise design and perfect end products, it’s no wonder this industry is a fan of the technology. Printing replacement parts for broken equipment is faster than ordering the correct replacements. Printing stop-motion animation is far more appealing than the traditional, painstaking methods of doing so. Here are some of the most interesting projects they’re currently working on with 3D printers:

  • Studio DBLG: Stop-motion animation has seen almost every medium in its time: Wood, clay and even detachable bricks. But there’s a new element on set now that 3D printing has caught the eye of animators. Studio DBLG created “Bears On Stairs,” a looped animation of a bear walking up a staircase using 50 3D printed models for each frame. You can read more about Bears On Stairs’ process here.
  • Build Your Own Gear: Cinematography can be an expensive industry. Luckily, there are ways to cut down on costs by printing your own gear. From rigs to tripods, there are plenty of affordable, easy options to get the best gear, DIY-style.

3D Printed Art Is that it?

Another 3D printed instrument.
Another 3D printed instrument. (Source: 3Dvarius)

Because there are so many branches of the Fine Arts, there are many disciplines that 3D printing technology has yet to meet. These are only a few of the branches this technology has caught up with, but you can certainly expect to see much more as this medium becomes more popular. The array of options for artists in the 3D printing world is practically limitless, and with this technology, artists can create to their heart’s content.

Feature image source: Boing Boing

License: The text of "3D Printed Art – How 3D Printing Makes Its Way into Creativity" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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