3D Futures

Some said that the industrial revolution would do away with craftsmanship.

Will 3D do away with art or do we have 3D futures ?

If everything can be copied and printed in about 100 materials (to date), then will there be such a thing as a ‘unique piece’ or will there be editions of thousands of such ‘unique pieces’? [1]

Adapting to progress has always been a challenge because everything changes.

Change incites change and this often engenders fear.

The ever-transforming creative landscape opens a world of opportunity while igniting the vociferous opinions of the sanctimonious purist.


As a sculptor I would have to say that my hands have a raison d’être that defines me.

I use them to sculpt so in a way, we could say that I am limiting myself if I close the door to the creative possibilities that 3D printing might grant us.

There is simply no replacement to modeling a figure.

A body cast can not replace the modeled figure and neither could a scanned figure. (I have seen one and it is not the same.)

A carefully sculpted figure is still not an exact reproduction of a figure, it is an art form.

This is at the core of how we create.


However, having said that, is it not wrong to deny the advancement of the process?

While 3D printing will never give the same results as those witnessed when a sculpture is created using one’s hands we should welcome the creative prospects that this new technology could bring.

A machine can, however, allow for new methodologies that could bring about a new art form.

I think it should be viewed as an adventure.

While I must admit that much of the 3D printing I have seen leaves much to be desired (again, because I am a sculptor), let’s look at the amazing things it has brought about in the medical field, for example.

Or the new ability to create very cool looking radiators that massively increase the amount of both water and air flowing through a smaller space than could otherwise be assembled, even if made by hand!

Then there is 4D printing, with the 4th dimension being time. It’s quite amazing!

‘This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time.

Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract.” [2]


What could this do for artists who work with ephemeral sculpture?

A whole new world of creative promise presents itself.

The applications of 3D printing in art are to be discovered and developed.

Having an open mind to the future of art history means that while we cannot and would not deny the past, we should not deny the new tools with which to create.

A sculptor will still be a sculptor and a good 3D or 4D printer may simply help us in doing what we do.

  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/avi_reichental_what_s_next_in_3d_printing#t-137054
  2. https://www.ted.com/talks/skylar_tibbits_the_emergence_of_4d_printing

By Blake & Boky