Curious Trends


Computer printed 3D design in art and architecture

Computer generated additive manufacturing works by building up layers of material to create 3D designs, ranging from household objects and furniture, to car components - and eventually whole vehicles, houses, streets and cities. Even human tissue and food could potentially be the created by rapid prototyping technology. 3D digital design has latterly been used to replicate old fashioned objects, or employed to upcycle retro technology into futuristic conceptual art. Most fascinating of all are the possibilities for computer aided design to create life-transforming architecture and cityscapes.

Michael Eden is a grand master of computer generated 3D design. He’s reproduced classic pieces of antique pottery to create award winning designs, like his 2010 Wedgwoodn’t Tureen. Made using rapid manufacturing with highly innovative ceramic materials, the iconic shape is based on designs from the 1817 Wedgwood Creamware Catalogue. During his MPhil at the Royal College of Art (2006-8) Eden set out to challenge the accepted roles of the container in domestic life. His new body of work explores its more abstract qualities, using a combination of 3D drawing software and additive layer manufacturing using non-fired ceramic materials. He aims to create things “inspired by objects and contemporary themes, through which the viewer may be engaged in a narrative.”

Perhaps his most innovative project yet is the creation of Amalthea in 2011, made by additive layer manufacturing from a high quality nylon material with mineral soft coating. To start with, Eden generated a type of QR code known as a ‘blotcode’ which links to a page on his website when scanned by a barcode reader, available as an App for some smart phones. He then extruded the 2-dimensional image into a 3-dimensional form using Rhino 3D software.

The cornucopia shape of Amalthea refers to the wealth of knowledge available on the world wide web, whilst the cryptic symbols within the filigree design refer to the consequences this may have on society. The idea behind this piece is that “objects often have stories attached to them. They can commemorate an event; they are often transformed into family heirlooms and passed on with the stories associated with them. Amalthea also tells stories, but these stories are online, so have the potential to include text, video, image and music. They can be added to over time, creating a repository of memories and information.”

When the viewer scans Amalthea with a barcode reader mobile phone App, it connects to a page on Eden’s website telling the story, providing additional information thereby creating a simultaneous actual and virtual experience. ”I plan to offer a series of similar pieces, where the QR code is generated for a client linking the piece to information specific to that person. So, as heirlooms, the virtual experience could tell the story of the journey of that object through the generations,” he explains in his blog.

Robert Ware’s architectural installation, Repository of the Eternal Now, currently at the Royal College of Art’s Show RCA 2011 is a testament to his amazing ingenuity. Ware works in a DIY manner, using components from old printers and other recycled technology to recreate futuristic plastic forms. But it’s his concept that is particularly exciting: The idea of an architecture that can build itself, in conjunction with a way of storing physical data three dimensionally, so it can be read from buildings - like information stored in the rings of trees.

Ware envisages a City of London plagued by terrorism and cyber-attacks, with the London financial markets as a principal target. As the Church of England, with its declining congregations, is such a major investor in the stock market, Ware presents a way to revive the church and the economy. His proposal is for St Paul’s Cathedral to extend (build) itself in real time, as a repository for all information “in line with Wren’s unaccomplished ambition, replacing now redundant hierarchies with public accession apposite to the City of London.”

Daniel Widrig’s 2009 Polystyrene work, Cloud Like, ‘explores the ever-morphing natural world of cloud formation.’ He uses computer models to show how clouds are shaped by wind and weather to fix a moment of cloud like transience. Although the computer driven CNC milling machine used extremely detailed information to cut the piece, the surface has been left rough, ‘to suggest the temporary and fleeting beauty of clouds.’

2D computer generated linking parts can also be transformed into 3D objects. Watch the MoreJuice video of the Wilson Brothers building a Formula One car for Puma, using computer generated cardboard components.

Another computer generated hybrid is Victoria Spruce’s footwear, created using 3D printing combined with traditional shoemaking.

Finally, food of the future may be digitally 'grown' too, like James King's MRI steak...

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