When relatively new technology receives the endorsement of a megastar such as Black Eyed Peas will.i.am, its popularity skyrockets and suddenly the application possibilities seem endless.
Appointed recently as the chief creative officer of a global 3D printing company, will.i.am has set about taking 3D printing beyond the limited reach of staunch tech enthusiasts. His aim is to promote a simple-to-operate 3D printer that would reduce material waste by using recycled materials. This effort to promote sustainable living and highlight the environmental impact of manufacturing is only the tip of an iceberg that is both mind-blowingly large and infinitely useful.
“3D printing has been around for some time. However, consumers have recently begun to become more engaged in the 3D printing value chain,” says Simon Bromfield, Channel Manager at Adobe Systems Sub-Saharan Africa. “When most people talk about 3D printing, the focus is on the printers. But what will ultimately drive the growth of the consumer 3D printing market is the availability of content that is compelling to consumers.”
3D printing or additive manufacturing is being developed and adapted to spread its influence across a number of sectors and processes. 2014 has seen a number of significant breakthroughs in the use of this technology. Swedish supercar manufacturer, Koenigsegg recently unveiled the One:1, a supercar that utilises many components that were 3D printed. This year, 3D printing has begun to be used in production versions of spaceflight hardware. Healthcare advances have also been profound: scientists are using 3D printing and living tissue to produce ears, kidneys and livers.
But one of the most rapidly evolving applications of 3D printing is taking place in the creative space. Sculptors, modelers, artists, concept designers, illustrators and even jewellers and architects are embracing the potential of 3D printing to create complex objects that could not be made in other ways.
“A big part of what influences the value of content has to do with colour. Much of the content created today is monochrome, but with the right software, creative and designers have the control and flexibility to add colour, polish and texture to transform a 3D object into something meaningful and vibrant,” says Bromfield.
Designer Francis Bitonti, well known in design circles for a 3D printed gown that he created for fashion icon Dita von Teese, sees computational methodologies, smart materials and interactive environments as an opportunity to create new aesthetic languages for the creative industry.
“My design process is a collaboration with artificial intelligence,” says Bitoni. “We are transposing these ideas from design methodologies to tangible consumer experiences.”
In order for creatives to produce inspirational pieces, many of them are working with software that is developed specifically for the production of physical output.
Tobias Klein, architect and creator of The Garden of Earthly Delights, an art piece orientated on the work of Hieronymous Bosch and featured at the 3D Print Show London 2014, explains its use in practice: “We use Photoshop CC distinctively at the front end in its capability to quickly generate artwork and colour schemes for the later application onto the models. This helps us considerably to communicate the design in a fast and effective way as we can export the painted models between various platforms.”
“3D printing has opened up a creative pathway that is fantastical, boundless and alive with possibilities,” says Bromfield. “The production of high quality full colour content is already changing high-end jewellery, sculptures, household goods, fashion and architecture. Technologically advanced software can turn visionary design ideas into tangible reality.”
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