Re: [rp-ml] A thesis about 3d-printing

From: Andrew Werby <>
Date: Mon Nov 16 2009 - 02:42:12 EET

Another interesting application is
in art. 3d printing puts sculpture
on the same level as other forms of
art capable of mechanical
reproduction, such as music and
video. Here's an article I'm
working on for Wikipedia on the
subject of digital sculpture
(anybody who has anything to add to
it can let me know now, or wait
until it goes live to edit it.):

== The realm of digital art is no
longer confined to 2d prints. ==

Over the past few decades, numerous
artists have begun to use computers
to help them create physical
three-dimensional art. Techniques
used range from using the computer
as a visualization tool, making
blueprints in a Computer-Aided
Design (CAD) program that
fabricators can use as guides in
cutting out metal plates for
welding together, a process used by
Bruce Beasley to creating art using
mathematical algorithms and
producing it directly with 3d
printers, which is what Bathsheba
Grossman does. The individual
programs and equipment, and the
artistic purposes they are employed
for, are as varied as the sculptors
who use them. While formerly the
means of doing this have been
restricted to those in industry or
academia, the recent proliferation
of powerful and affordable
computers has democratized the
field, and artists have either been
able to afford the means of
production individually, or have
made use of service bureaus to
produce physical versions of
virtual models they create on their

Programs used to create models
suitable for physical output range
from animation applications like
Maya and 3d Studio Max, to
engineering programs like
Solidworks, IronCAD, or Inventor,
to general-purpose modeling
environments like Rhinoceros, Form
Z, and Moi. A new generation of 3d
programs have made sculptural
effects easier to achieve. Programs
like Z-Brush and Mudbox use
techniques like displacement
mapping to alter surfaces, while
Sensable Technologies has developed
a "haptic" 3d environment where
users can use an articulated
force-feedback stylus device to
sculpt and modify forms in real time.

The use of 3d scanners, made by
companies such as Roland DGA,
Cyberware, and Creaform, which
capture surface data from real
objects, bringing them into the
virtual space of the computer,
means that modern sculptural
strategies like deconstruction and
assemblage can be practiced with
new fluidity. A typical use of the
scanning process is for the
enlargement of sculpture made on a
small scale by traditional means,
replacing the operation of
"pointing up" commonly performed by
art foundries, another use replaces
the scaling-down operation formerly
done using pantographs.

In addition to the additive 3d
printers developed for "rapid
prototyping" by industry, sculptors
can also use computer-controlled
carving machines to work
subtractively, in media like wood,
plastic, and stone, on scales from
the small to the very large. While
milling and routing machines have
been available for some time, it is
only recently that the control
systems that run them have been
developed that run on
consumer-grade personal computers,
using inexpensive programs like
Mach3 or even open-source ones like
EMC, which runs under real-time
Linux. This in turn has unleashed a
wave of lower-priced and even
home-built CNC machinery capable of
turning virtual models into carved
reliefs or sculpture in the round,
with the help of affordable (or
even free) CAM
(Computer-Aided-Machining) programs
from companies like DeskProto,
Mecsoft, and MeshCAM.

Digital sculpture has been featured
in various magazine articles,
conference presentations and group
shows. Christine Paul, for example,
gave the subject a broad overview
for the International Sculpture
which has also devoted time to the
subject at its annual conferences ,
and Dan Collins gave an influential
talk on it at the 6th Biennial
Symposium on Art and Technology,
Connecticut College, February 27 -
March 2, 1997
]. Intersculpt, the first major
show of digital sculpture was
initiated by Ars Mathematica
[] in
1993 and continues biennially to
the present day. It allows people
around the world to participate by
sending in a model electronically;
it is built for the show and
exhibited as a physical sculpture.
Another notable show was the
International Rapid Prototyping
curated by Mary Visser and Robert
Michael Smith, both themselves
notable exponents of the medium.
Another recent show, the Digital
Stone Exhibition
[], toured
various venues in China with a
combination of
digitally-manufactured works and
some that had been mastered
digitally but translated into stone
by Chinese craftsmen.

As Moore's Law stays effective and
computers become ever more powerful
and ubiquitous, their role in
creating 3d artwork will only
increase. Sculptors will be
empowered to extend what they are
able to do, and the world of art
will be enriched as they discover
new ways to do things that never
could be done before.

Andrew Werby wrote:
> Hello everybody.
> I'm writing my thesis about 3d-printing. This is a totally new and
> interesting area for me. My teacher told me about this mailing list and
> suggested that I try asking help from here.
> One major part of my thesis is going to be about the different
> applications of this technology. Any information about this technology
> and its different applications is appreciated. I know that it's being
> used eg in industrial design, architectural design and in the automotive
> industry.
> What I lack are examples. Do you know any newspaper/magazine articles
> about 3d-printing?
> Another big part of my thesis is about the cheap alternatives such as
> Reprap, Makerbot and Fab@Home. I think these three examples are enough
> but if there is a project that I should mention then please tell me.
> Well, thank you in advance.
Received on Mon Nov 16 02:32:09 2009

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