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Analysis out of the box

3D printing: towards a new industry, towards a new world

Analysis out of the boxContemporary Art | For the past fifteen years, 3D printing, also known as stereolithography, has revolutionized our relationship to materials and objects. With it creators set up new work processes with old materials (notably ceramics) and design innovative materials from recycled or biotechnological materials.

Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018 © Joris Laarman & MX3D
Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018
© Joris Laarman & MX3D

A journey through time

It clearly looks like a prehistoric flint, some of which has been poured into latex. You wonder how this object could leave the archaeological museum and be customised in such a way. But now you see several others, with handles similar to those of familiar tools. On each of them you can read the inscription Man Made. You are told that it is a series of objects by Israeli designers Ami Drach et Dov Ganchrow : it was made using a 3D printer and is entitled BC-AC (2011-2014).

Ami Drach & Dow Ganchrow, BC-AD: the yellow series, 2011-2014 © Photo Moti Fishbain
Ami Drach & Dow Ganchrow, BC-AD: the yellow series, 2011-2014
© Photo Moti Fishbain

After studying prehistoric flint knapping and learning how to knap it in order to understand the process, the designers print these flints in 3D using prehistoric originals as models. The zone covered with latex indicates the grip area. How could you use them? You may try them for gardening, and why not, to make a fire, like in the past, 700.000 years ago.

The table on which these technological flints are placed seems so light that you wonder how it can support their weight. It is made of titanium, printed in 3D; it is a work of the series Growth (2016) by Danish designer Matthias Bengtsson (1971).

Mathias Bengtsson, Growth Lounge, 2016 © Photo Marc Domage Copyright Mathias Bengtsson & Galerie Maria Wettergren
Mathias Bengtsson, Growth Lounge, 2016
© Photo Marc Domage Copyright Mathias Bengtsson & Galerie Maria Wettergren
Its shape, between the vegetal and the organic, makes you think of a refreshment of Art Nouveau. At the basis of this series, Matthias Bengtsson has indeed set up an artificial intelligence software that enables to grow a shape like a living organism from a digital seed (1) . The furniture of his Growth series is available in various materials, including walnut wood or bronze.

Next to it, a translucent armchair seems to float in space. When you try it, it is very solid and comfortable. This is a work of Dutch designer Dirk van der Kooij, Not only hollow chair (2014) is made of recycled synthetic materials.

Dirk Vander Kooij, Not Only Hollow Chair, 2014 © Photo courtesy of Gallery Chamber credits Loek Blonk
Dirk Vander Kooij, Not Only Hollow Chair, 2014
© Photo courtesy of Gallery Chamber credits Loek Blonk

You are challenged by a kind of menhir lying a little further down. Its touch is soft, you understand that it is made of synthetic materials. It is Menhir Bench (2017), also by Dirk van der Kooij. The designer defends an ecological and sustainable approach to design : he develops entirely recycled materials, his lines are minimal and his highly elaborate works are produced with low-resolution 3D printers for lower energy consumption.

You are now facing a ceramic vase of remarkable finesse for its size of almost one meter high. Dutch designer Olivier van Herpt (1989) took two years to create a 3D printer by himself, experimenting with various manufacturing processes with different clays. As you approach it, you can see the slight streaks reminiscent of the additive manufacturing of printing. Both artisanal and technological, this vase brings a new breath to ceramics. With 3D printing, Olivier van Herpt also reactivates the Delftware, a Dutch earthenware technique famous for its finesse, developed in the 17th century to imitate Chinese porcelain (Blue and White, 2018).

Olivier van Herpt, Blue and White, 2018 © Olivier van Herpt
Olivier van Herpt, Blue and White, 2018
© Olivier van Herpt

On the street, you cross the canal by a metal bridge. This is the MX3D Bridge (2018), a work by the Joris Laarman Lab in collaboration with the MX3D startup. The Bridge was awarded the Dutch Design Award 2018 for the prowess of 3D metal printing on such a scale.

Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018 © Joris Laarman & MX3D
Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018
© Joris Laarman & MX3D

Finally, you go to your tailor’s to show him the seamless dress you want him to make with the latest fabrics designed for 3D printing, then you intend to go through a chocolate factory to have chocolates printed, whose shape you have designed (Les 3 dandies).

Les 3 Dandies, Les atomes crochus © Photo : Le chocolat dans tous nos états (https://lechocolatdanstousnosetats.com/)
Les 3 Dandies, Les atomes crochus
© Photo : Le chocolat dans tous nos états (https://lechocolatdanstousnosetats.com/)

Towards a technological and personalised craft industry

You’re thinking about the flint again. It sums up the upheaval that 3D printing represents today. Getting back to the first tool, this technological flint questions all the tools that developed between it and the original from which it was created.
With 3D printing, creators are completely rethinking the creation and production processes : printing 1 or 30,000 objects in 3D requires about the same means, and these objects will never be quite the same.
So why not return to tailor-made objects and thus to a craft approach rather than an industry production?
This is the choice that many designers make today, whose focus now shifts on designing new materials that meet contemporary ecological challenges : recycled plastics such as Dirk van Rooij but also biodegradable and compostable materials made of algae or mycelium alloys (notably Samuel Tomatis, Jonas Edvard, Studio Klarenbeck & Droos, see Virtual.Time Biotechnologies through the prism of creation).
These creators tend to overthrow the industrial productivity economy by setting up a technological and personalized craft industry. In order to achieve this, many work with local materials, thus adapting their objects to the resources of the production facility.

Save the planet with 3D printing?

At various levels, 3D printing holds great promise from an ecological point of view.
On a large scale, to replace the coral reefs of the Calanques National Park, printed artificial concrete reefs have been designed by XtreeE to restore habitat for wildlife in the area (Rexcor Artificial Reef, 2017).

XtreeE & Seaboost, Rexcor Artificial Reef, 2017 © Ulien Dalle / SEABOOST Concrete 3D printing
XtreeE & Seaboost, Rexcor Artificial Reef, 2017
© Ulien Dalle / SEABOOST Concrete 3D printing

Its hopes are high for the second most polluting industry on the planet : fashion. For several years, 3D printing has been used in the haute couture where it is combined with craftsmanship; and it is beginning to develop in the ready-to-wear fashion. The designer Iris van Herpen makes clothes worthy of goldsmith’s work which defy the laws of gravity. Karl Lagerfeld had been using it for Chanel since 2015.

Iris Van Herpen, collection Ludi Naturae, 2018 © Iris Van Herpen
Iris Van Herpen, collection Ludi Naturae, 2018
© Iris Van Herpen

Today you can find tailor-made shoes at some major sport brands such as Adidas, Nike and New Balance, which are developing their research into new materials for printing high-performance insoles. In particular, designer Aarish Netarwala made a running shoe for Adidas that makes the foot work as if the runner was stepping on sand, a common training practice now possible on hard ground (Adidas Grit, 2017).

Aarish Netarwala, Adidas Grit, 2017 © Aarish Netarwala & Adidas
Aarish Netarwala, Adidas Grit, 2017
© Aarish Netarwala & Adidas

When it will develop in the ready-to-wear industry, 3D printing should revolutionize the current fashion economy : production surpluses will become obsolete, and by ricocheting, it will help put an end to pollution and to the exploitation of workers in developing countries.

In the future, 3D printing will be able to renew technical solutions in architecture, restoration of works of art or heritage preservation.

1) On this point, his practice meets that of artist Miguel Chevalier who creates self-generative virtual natures also from digital seeds.

Maud Maffei
Publié le 13/06/2019
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Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018 © Joris Laarman & MX3D

Joris Laarman & MX3D, MX3D Bridge, 2018
© Joris Laarman & MX3D

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