Updated 05/26/2012 05:00 AM
Tech Beat: Use of 3D printing expands to new mediums
What may look like a standard art exhibit in the Flatiron District is far from it -- mainly because all the objects are printed, as in created with something similar to the document printer you have at home. Adam Balkin filed the following report.
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Believe it or not, everything on display at the Print/3D art exhibit in Manhattan's Flatiron District was, in fact, printed by a 3D printer like the one from MakerBot Industries.
The exhibit is curated by Material ConneXion, a company that researches, for manufacturers, all sorts of materials and processes for making things out of those materials.
"3D printing is another form of a process that designers can use to help rapidly prototype and innovate, make new products, design new concepts. Previously, what you would do is take your idea, your CAD file, your drawing could've been a sketch on the back of a napkin and you'd send it off to a company that would take 3-4 weeks to make something now you can take your CAD file, connect it up to your 3D printer and within a couple hours you will have an actual prototype of the product you've designed," says Susan Towers of Material ConneXion.
And something that may surprise even those who've seen 3D printing before, in addition to the nylons and plastics, now metals and ceramic can be printed as well. The other interesting detail is how detailed the printings can get. One item on display was a scale model of one of the artist's deceased grandfather, created from a photograph.
And it's not all just artwork. Some of the items can be extremely practical, such as printed prosthetics.
"Now you have a company like Bespoke that's based out in San Francisco that's making 3D printed Bespoke body parts. So prosthesis, for example, could be for a wounded veteran coming back who needs a leg," says Towers.
There's also a bikini made out of nylon that designers say may actually hold water while keeping its shape better than most other swimwear out there.
"When it absorbs water it's kinda like seashells so the water evenly distributes and it becomes nice and smooth and it doesn't get heavier or weighed down," says Mary Huang of Continuum Fashion.
Incidentally, if you're interested in creating your own printed objects you can now buy your own 3D printer, MakerBot's Thing-O-Matic for example sells for a little over a thousand dollars. Or, do an online search for 3D printing for services that will print projects one at a time for you.