Characters printed with water last for a day on special paper, which can then be re-used.
In the consumer and tech markets, 3-D printing is used to build cars, robots, footwear, rockets, gun and just about anything else you can imagine. But in the world of art, visual artists are just beginning to explore the creative ways to use 3-D printers to expand their work. A painter’s canvas, one dimensional until now, suddenly can show depth and perspective, while a sculptor’s own laser-scanned body can become the working model for 3-D printed works.
Reclining Figure by Sophie Kahn
Way back in 2003, while studying at a university in Melbourne, Sophie Kahn observed a group of architects using 3-D scanning and printing. “I started using the scanner on my own body in the lab, and to me it was very reminiscent of art history and classical sculpture and indicative of the fragmentation and decay of ancient art,” Kahn said. “So I am interested in the melding of ancient and futuristic art.”
Here, she combines 3-D laser scanning and 3-D printing with ancient bronze casting techniques to achieve a timeless, deconstructed look.
Kahn says she purposefully uses a 3-D model in a way that will generate errors and glitches in the final printing process.
“I use motion of the body because the scanner does not handle a moving breathing body very well. It misunderstands that, so you get multiple overlapping figures,” she said. “I sculpt that, and it’s very labor intensive. I spend a couple of months on each piece, using digital sculpting software. When I’m happy with it, I send it out to the printer."
Kahn’s work can be seen at sophiekahn.net, and in an upcoming exhibit at Connecticut College, Oct. 28 to Dec. 6, 2013.
Protocolonization of Commons
Artist Shane Hope sits at the intersection of science and technology via molecular nanotechnology, the science of modifying objects at the atomic or molecular level. “My goal is to glean abnormalities that aesthetically accentuate messy molecular modeling,” he said. “I've hand-hobbled together a bunch of bots (3-D printers) from scratch and I employ them more like painting assistants.”
Hope, whose work will be shown Oct. 18 to Feb. 2, 2014 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts “Dissident Futures” exhibition, was trained as a painter. Although he has no formal computer science training, he uses open-source nano molecular design software to create his complex designs and uses several 3-D printers in his studio. Each piece uses thousands of 3D-printed models.
In the heart of a 150-acre redwood forest, architect Bryan Allen and art practice psychologist Stephanie Smith installed Echoviren, a 10x10x8-foot, 3D-printed translucent enclosure. “We used seven printers running 24 hours a day producing essentially 500 individual pieces,” Allen told DNews. “We used run-of-the-mill 3-D desktop printers. The 3-D printer compresses the time from conception of an idea to its fruition and building. You use the same tool to evaluate your design, to produce prototypes and to produce the final design.”
The artists’ goal was to create a space in the forest influenced by the environment and coastal redwoods.
“For us, it really democratizes the production of large scale work,” Allen said. The project will decompose naturally within 40 to 50 years.
Frank Stella can safely be called a pioneer in the use of 3-D printing for art, since he first started experimenting with it in the mid 1990s. Stella gained fame in the 1950s with geometrics in nature paintings.
Stella starts with a handmade model, sometimes made from paper, which he scans and captures as a digital image. He then cuts and pastes from other existing models before manipulating and refining the image and sending to a 3-D printer.
Stella, whose work will be shown at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City from Oct. 16 to July 6, 2014, sometimes adds elements of wire or steel tubing for more texture and depth. “Stella sees the 3D-printed form as a canvas for him to apply paint,” said Ron Labaco, curator at the Museum of Arts and Design. “The works range from tabletop, about two and a half feet across, to larger free-standing or wall hangings that are as large as six or eight feet across. He works with some of the 3-D printing companies in Europe that have the largest printers.”
Fans who were surprised at the intricate artwork on Kanye West’s 2012 album, “Cruel Summer” can thank Parisian artist Hugo Arcier. Arcier, trained in digital filmmaking and 3-D graphic arts, creates original objects using 3-D printers. “Using 3-D printers probably blurs the line between art and design and some projects I do with 3D-printing technology can be considered more as design,” Arcier told DNews. “I’m excited about the link between art and science.”
Arcier, whose work will be on display at Show Off, the annual Paris art fair, form Oct. 21-23, says artists have a long history of incorporating technology into their work. He points to Andy Warhol’s use of screen printing as an example.
“3-D printing is a technology that evolves very quickly so I am paying close attention to it,” Arcier said. “There are more and more materials available. I am doing some tests now with rubber material. I think it can be used very creatively. I also look forward to the possibility of printing bigger objects, since the size is really a limitation now."
Anyone who owns a printer knows that printer ink is expensive. Water would be much cheaper.
Chinese scientists reporting in the journal Nature Communications say they have made a simple printer that uses water instead of ink. The printed characters last for a day on special paper, which can then be re-used.
“Every time you print it's fresh,” Sean Zhang, professor of chemistry at Jilin University in Changchun, China told Discovery News in an interview. “We are using a commercially available inkjet printer. We just filled the cartridges with water and put it back. It’s like normal printing. The magic is in the paper.”
Zhang is a former researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Menlo Park, Calif., and is now a professor at the State Key Laboratory of Supramolecular Structure and Materials at Jilin.
He said that printing typically involves large amounts of waste paper and expensive ink to prepare documents often read only once. This method allows the paper to be reused numerous times and could potentially have cheaper associated running costs.
Zhang and his colleagues developed a special coating on the paper that responds to the water. So far, they have been able to print various Chinese and English characters using blue, magenta, gold and purple colors, using water as a key that activates the dye molecule. The next step is to combine colors to get black, Zhang said.
The possibility of reusing paper instead of throwing it away is intriguing, according to Kira Barton, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and an expert in high-performance printing technology.
“Going toward more sustainable techniques of printing is helpful and beneficial,” Barton said. “It would be interesting to quantify the quality and regularity and repeatability you could get before you see degradation. For standard typing, I think it’s an interesting idea and something worth exploring.”
Zhang said that he foresees advances in printing technology that would allow consumers to have entire newspapers or magazines printed at home with paper that could be recycled over and over again. Based on 10 uses per sheet of water-jet paper, Zhang estimates the cost at one-seventeenth the current price of inkjet printing.
That may not be cheap enough, according to one expert, since regular single-use paper is so cheap.
"Technology for using hydrochromic dyes to make rewritable paper is exciting as a new approach for avoiding the problem of single-use paper," said Norman Marsolan, director of the Institute for Paper Science and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in an e-mail. "Because existing paper products are inexpensive, however, this new technology will have to be cost-competitive, even if it can be rewritten many times."