We have seen 3D Printed experiments in variable structures in concrete and the potential it has for creating intelligent structures for architecture. Netfabb have recently uploaded a really simple, interesting video of the capillary effects of 3D Printed structures.
There is massive unrealized potential with 3D Printing to make the materials function in much more intelligent ways than they are currently being used. There are two main factors that contribute to the current underuse of the materials and processes.
The first is the capacity of the human mind to understand the true potential of a new material. When we are given a new material we often use it in the same way, or as a direct replacement for an existing material. As we did with Bakelite to plastics and now with 3D Printing. As we begin to better understand the materials and processes we start to use them in more sophisticated ways until we make the most of their potential, using them for their unique material properties.
The second is the tools we use to design and fabricate the materials. From hand tools to power tools and now the 3D modeling tools, we are limited by the forms that the software will allow us to create. With tools within 3D modeling software like Grasshopper, Netfabb or those being developed and used by Nervous System we are starting to see the very tip of the iceberg of intelligent tools to design for digital fabrication.
We will start to see 3D printed forms being innovative not just in the external forms as we currently see in the Shapeways galleries but also in their internal structure. The structure of the materials will start to be optimized for strength, weight, porosity, flexibility, impact, abrasiveness, friction and many more factors through data input, not just manual crunching of CAD. We have seen it start to happen in the arts with form such as Joris Laarman's Bone Chair and Bridge Table and in medicine with porous ceramic structures used to aid in bone grafts but it will eventually be a standard practice in design to enter requirements to define both material structure and form for digital fabrication.
Hopefully Netfabb's simple video will act as inspiration for us all to start think of digital fabrication in this way.
Mark Frauenfelder, founder of boingboing interviews Kevin Mack on his use of 3D Printing to make his otherwise impossible art real. There are thousands of amazing 3D Printed sculptures in the Shapeways gallery but it is always inspiring to hear how an artist approaches the opportunity to make the impossible, with math...
We all know Bathsheba Grossman's 3D Printed sculptures are massive in the world of math art but now they are just, massive... Thanks to the D-Shape 3D Printer and a valiant attempt on Indiegogo , Bathsheba's Rygo sculpture has been 3D Printed 6 foot tall and has now made it's way to Vancouver (only Canadian Shapeways users can imagine the UPS duties on THIS delivery).
The Rygo is now billed as the largest 3D Print in North America and is scheduled to be installed at VanDusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.
We are seeing the number of the requests for 3D modelers increase every month to the point that a few of the Shapeways community members are getting a regular income stream from their 3D modeling skills. If you have some design skills you would like to offer for hire you can offer your services in the Shapeways forums so that people who are looking to hire a 3D designer can find you and some of your work. Many people want to 3D Print their ideas whether they be art, fashion, jewelry, products and architecture, sometime they just need a little help...