Implementation of 3D printing in Design
a 'Technology Driven Art' research project
by Sascha Bien and Eric Steenman (Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design MAFAD)

It felt a bit weird that 3D printing wasn't integrated yet in the regular teaching course of a design and architecture school. Design students attended a project of a few weeks where they could print some objects and the FachHochschule in Aachen, and some of them used the services of the local FabLab. But it wasn't an integral part of their regular design process.
Although the initial enthousiasme was quite low (Students will have no interest in it, 3D-printing ia already old news, students cause tied-party services for printing…), we installed 2 3D-printers (Ultimaker 2) and organised some introducing courses. The idea is that 3D-printing encourages a new way of 3D-Design, with 3d-design programs as the main tool. As a scenographer, I always conceived and designed my sets directly in 3D, with almost no preliminary sketches on paper. The research question is: will the introduction of these 3D printers challenge the supremacy of the pencil as the main design tool? And how will it influence the designs themselves?

Quite quickly, the peculiarities of 3D printing (which are manifold) influenced the design concepts.
In collaboration with MAFAD, the professorship of Technology Driven Art invested in some 3D printers of very different technologies:
* FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) printers - the most popular printers (and the cheapest)
* SLA (Stereo Lithography Apparatus) printers, printing with a laser beam in fluid resin
* SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) printer: printing with a laser beam in powder… (from dust to dust…)

It's good to remark that all these technologies became available to the 'general public market', as their underlying patents expired.
3D printing as such is not a new technology at all (it stared of in the 80's): but the mass production of it (and the accompanying myth to be able to print your own stuff), is quite new indeed.

As artists most of the time have to gather their tools from the garbage bin of technology: this is the time to use 3D printing in an artistic process.
This research project will map the ongoing process of using 3D printing technologies in Design.


dec 2016