The applications of 3D printing have evolved far beyond the simple gimmicks and models that typified its early implementation. Alongside efforts to create human organs, prosthetics, affordable housing, and clothing, enterprising designers are using 3D printing techniques to create products and experiences that wouldn’t be possible any other way.
In this post, we put five projects under the microscope. We feel they show off some of the weird and wonderful things that have been created with 3D printers in recent years.
Back in 2014, a French design company called Appropriate Audiences hacked a 3D printer to build a “Tattoo Printer.” The “Tatoué” uses a bespoke Makerbot printer with a tattoo needle replacing the standard funnel. This needle can operate at a staggering 150 punctures per second with 100% accuracy. It essentially allows artists to input a design into the Makerbot and have it replicated on a willing participant.
A special sensor is installed to sense the contours of a person's skin (or appendage) and only pierce the top layer of the skin. This precision was tested on silicon skin before being put to work on a human being. However, when the first human test subject stepped forward, they decided not to tempt fate and opted for a simple, perfect circle design; something that would be almost impossible for a human being to draw by hand.
Drawing on her architectural background, a Ukrainian patisserie chef has used 3D printing methods to create a range of complex, geometric desserts with distinct architectural characteristics. Dinara Kasko created a range of perfectly sculpted cakes using the 3DS max software to create silicon moulds, which were used to shape her sweet sponges, jellies, and meringues. The results look like they would belong more on the wall at the Tate than in the window of a bakery.
The iconic Icelandic musician Bjork is renowned as one of the most innovative and genuinely artistic pop culture figures. Back in 2016, she teamed up with designer Neri Oxman and her Mediated Matter group to design a mask moulded from various strands of 3D-printed plastic that aimed to reflect the organic nature of her music.
The mask, known as “Rottlace” (“skinless” in Icelandic) was designed around Bjork, so it will fit nobody else. The team began with a complete 3D scan of the singer's head, which they then used as the basis for over a dozen masks. The one Bjork chose to be printed (and wore in concert) was a black and white design with a texture that mimicked human hair. This just one example of 3D printing being used for artistic purposes, which shows the technology has more to offer the world than convenience and pragmatism.
Bringing Back the Dead
Although 3D printing has been used extensively in the field of prosthetics and even to print replacement internal organs, one Chinese funeral parlour is using a similar approach for a far more aesthetic purpose. The Longhua funeral home in Shanghai creates 3D printed prosthetics, which are reportedly at least 95% accurate, to replace the damaged body parts of its 'customers' so they can look as close as possible to as they did when they were in the land of the living. It's an expensive service, around $700 for a full face restoration, but the results are surprisingly convincing!
Stop Motion Animation
Combining 3D printed art with the more antiquated (but still beloved) art of stop-motion animation, Swiss video artist Greg Barth used a combination of both principles to create an advertisement for Belgium online music platform, Hello Play. The video reveals an array of electronic instruments, with their sounds being given a physical representation by 3D printed objects.
Barth created the surreal effect by printing off dozens of objects, hundreds of times. Each time, there was a slight modification applied to the design, so the effect was similar to stop-motion animators, who often create hundreds of models in different positions and shoot them frame-by-frame to achieve the illusion of movement. It's a truly unique and fascinating film.