Last year the big question was, "When will the 3D printing fad blow over?"
2013 was sort of a gauntlet for the industry; it seemed like every conversation I had with a skeptic ended up with a clever line like, “Do we really need more paperweights?”
... a year later, it's 2014 and the spark of 3D printing still hasn’t flickered out.
As with all new technology, mainstream adoption is often snared by cost and skepticism of real market demand versus fad hype. The importance of adopting emerging technologies can’t be understated. From high school engineering programs, to artists in the entertainment industry building their brand, every bit of support makes a statement. Early adopters from all sorts of backgrounds have been diving head-first into 3D printing and truly revolutionizing the process of rapidly prototyping those coveted high resolution plastic paperweights!
But, is that really the best we can do?
The design community would disagree.
The level of genius innovation coming out of exhibitions like 3D Printshow, Consumer Electronics Association (CES), and 3D Printer World Expo, are challenging the haters and boldly demonstrating that 3D printed art is more than a fad. It’s a medium for an artist to not only express themselves, but sometimes actually support themselves monetarily.
Do we mean that opening an online store guarantees turning a profit? Absolutely not, especially not this early in the game, but there are definitely many pioneers successfully coming out ahead of the crowd.
Artists Doing Cool Things!
Vaughan Ling (Pasadena, CA) is a concept design artist, whose work can be found at Heavypoly Industries. The online store has everything from prints of futuristic mechs to the highly detailed 3D printed BunnyBot (Think Bugs Bunny’s dystopian post-fallout cousin). This intricately detailed and hand-painted 3.3” model sells at $65 per unit in a variety of colors, but really... gold is best.
The fashion industry has even gotten on board! Joshua Harker’s (Chicago) Quixotic Divinity Headdress made a catwalk appearance at 3D Printshow London, in 2013. While we may not see an observable increase in the amount of wookies “appreciating the culture” of 3D printed headdresses at jam band festivals, Harker’s printed work is actually a pretty big deal in the world of 3D art, namely his “Tangle Series.” His pieces can be found on his personal webpage at prices ranging from $35.00 to $3,500 per unit.
We’re seeing more and more 3D printing startups being supported by crowdfunding every day. Hero Forge (Santa Monica, CA) is an online service specializing in 3D printed miniature heros that you can create on their custom online design interface. We’re talking battle armored elves, dwarves, and orcs wielding anything from a potion to a halberd.
The backers of this kickstarter project have shown that they are just as excited as the guys at Hero Forge; they comfortably exceeded their goal of raising $95,000... three days into their 35 day campaign!
Sterling Crispin’s project, Charon, is possibly the most unique model of any online market-place. In a mashup of software engineering, OpenGL simulation, 3D printing, motion tracking systems, and a quadcopter, “Charon is a physical embodiment of the tension between humans, robotic autonomous agents, and the virtual models which these agents rely on to understand the world.” (Really, you’re going to have to check out the link for their website.) Crispin dances an eerie tango with the quadcopter while tracking its movement via motion capture imaging from multiple infrared cameras. Triangulation algorithms pinpoint the exact movements of the robot as it reacts to not only the Artist’s movement, but it’s own virtual stimulus. The coordinates of movement are tied to physical locations in the room, then imaging software generates an organic mesh on a three-dimensional plane which is then printed. Be honest, you’ve never imagined a print so bizarre.
Don’t knock it till ya try it!
Skepticism is what’s holding 3D printing back, not a lack of examples of people successfully using the technology. Now may be the perfect opportunity to build your brand as an artist, and show others who aren’t as confident that this may be a viable option for them as well. Whether your expertise be sculpture, metaphysical conflict, toy making, or digital art, maybe it’s time for you to take the leap of faith and become a pioneer of what is to come.
Admittedly, no one really knows where this ship is sailing; that’s why we need a huge team of captains to hop on board and steer!