From fine art to fashion, the wider world is welcoming products created using 3D printers into the fold
By Caspar Tobias Schlenk
When architect and designer Francis Bitonti created a dress for Dita von Teese using a 3D printer, the world’s media certainly took notice. Working in cooperation with Michael Schmidt, Bitonti’s creation was made from nylon mesh embellished with 12,000 Swarovski crystals.
Many in the tech sector believe that 3D printers have the potential to mark the next industrial revolution, with engineers already experimenting making replacement parts for machines. A ‘printed’ gun was test-fired in the US in May. Even heart valves may one day be ‘printable’.
Artists and designers are also using the technology to create sculptures and jewellery. The technology works in a way comparable to that of a conventional inkjet printer, but instead of ink, 3D printers use nylon, ceramic and plastic, with the material laid down layer by layer to create a three dimensional object.
Bitonti has been working with 3D printers for the past six years. He has designed necklaces, belts and bicycle stands on a computer before using the services of a company to print them. He remembers in particular a white chair that looked as if it had been woven together using tree branches.
“It was such a complex design that it could never have been made using any other process,” says Bitonti. The 29-year-old began to take an interest in unusual shapes and patterns as an architecture student and simulated them in three dimensions on a computer screen. Today, he’s printing works of art in what he feels is a new method of artistic expression. “You see no trace of a human hand any more,” he says.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also researching how 3D printing can be used in design and architecture. Professor Neri Oxman is experimenting with creating large objects in her laboratory.
“In the near future we will be able to print buildings,” she says. By converting a robot’s arm into a 3D printer, it would be able to build a concrete wall layer by layer, she adds. One day it may be possible for everyone to design his or her own home and then print it.
The New York artist Josh Kline is trying to answer the question of how 3D printers are influencing our lives today.
He scanned the hands of a few of his friends and placed a virtual bottle in their hands on a computer. He filled the virtual bottles with fluids like Coca-Cola to give his work of art colour.
“I liked the idea of transforming real objects into information and then creating real objects from information,” says Kline, who draws a parallel with modern lives where the smartphone has become an integral part of our memory. “We are digitalising our lives on Facebook by placing photos online.”
Kline’s hand sculpture and other works of art made by a 3D printer have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He believes more young artists will begin using 3D computers and thinks the technology will change art “in the same way that Photoshop and digital cameras have changed photography”.
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