Scholars' Association News
Issue 33
March 2015


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3D Printing: Printing the future
By Dionysis Kambolis

The exhibition entitled ‘3D Printing’ at the Onassis Cultural Centre presents the new 3D printing technology in Greece for the first time. The exhibition organised by the Onassis Cultural Centre’s Marketing and Communications Division was launched on 15 December 2014, and following a recent extension will run to 1 March 2015. With its 80 exhibits from 35 artists, designers and scientific teams, this innovative exhibition explains what exactly 3D printing is and explores how it can be utilised across a wide range of applications; its impressive, yet also worrying and raises questions about what the future holds. In their introduction to the exhibition catalogue the exhibition’s curators, Double Decker (i.e. Wilhelm Finger and Melita Skamnaki) ponder over the question: “Is 3D printing the new industrial revolution?”. It would appear that that’s what they believe and they present their arguments in a highly persuasive manner.

The first step to print an object in 3D is to design it on the computer with the aid of suitable software. The design can either be some imaginary idea from the mind of the creator or be prepared by doing a 3D scan of an existing object. The printer then reproduces the digital design in 3 dimensions by successively ‘printing’ layers of the material chosen in each case (plastic, metal, and so on). With 3D printing an idea can move straight from design to completed product, bypassing intermediate stages and thereby revising traditional dividing lines between designer, manufacturer and why not also consumer.

The exhibition presents 3D printing applications in the fields of design, architecture, fashion, science and art, demonstrating how subversive it is as it affects such as large number of services and products. Designers are freed from the constraints of conventional manufacturing. Organic forms and complex connections, which were difficult if not impossible to manufacture until today, can now simply be printed like the impressively complex ‘Fractal table II’ by the Germans WertelOberfell.

The Jazzt Design team comprised of Antonella Nikolopoulou and the Onassis Cultural Centre scholar Antonis Kiourktsis have shown in the jewellery range ‘Made on You’ how objects can be tailored to the individual. The designers take a 3D scan, a digital image, of a body part and then use the structure of the image to create jewellery. This logic has many applications outside the field of design, especially in medicine since it would allow splints or prosthetic limbs fully tailored to the need of each individual patient to be designed and manufactured. However, scientists are not stopping there and over recent years have even moved towards ‘printing’ artificial organs!

In the architectural field, new construction techniques are being explored that will be more environmentally-friendly, more cost efficient and faster than conventional ones. One illustrative example is the Pylos research programme presented by Sofoklis Giannakopoulos. This programme uses one of the world’s oldest building materials, clay, as the raw material for printing structural elements. Fashion designers can now produce sculptural forms that can be worn and charm the onlooker, such as Gabriela Ligenza’s hats or Chau Har Lee’s shoes.

3D printing can also be utilised by artists, who now have a particularly flexible expressive medium at their service. Just like the appearance of photography in the 19th century put artists on new creative paths, and just like the ability to build with new materials at the start of the 20th century gave a boost to the search for substantive architectural values, 3D printing has all the potential to redefine many sectors of human creativity and production. Speed, low cost, freedom in design and tailor-made designs, as well as the ability to satisfy some of the basic demands of our age such as sustainable development, make it one of the most interesting technological developments around. We are keeping an eye on how the technology is developing and maturing. In all likelihood it will change how and where we live. Might it even change how we think? Let’s see what developments the future holds ...

(Dionysis Kambolis is a visual artist).

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