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Not 3D printing

There’s still an awful hubbub surrounding 3D printing.

It’s undoubtedly a powerful technology with a huge number of applications and certainly a verity powerful tool for designers but much of it’s praise is focused on it’s potential to replace mass-manufacturing.In my opinion this simply isn’t true. 3D printing will simply never be as cheap or fast as pressing and casting methods but it could well create new opportunities for producing more complex of impossible products. It has huge implications for engineering-grade components (where every gram might cost thousands of pounds in opperational costs), customisable wearables (where every contour needs to reflect your unique shape) or the pharmaceutical/ medical world (where treatment needs to be targeted).

Despite the huge importance of this technology, as a designer I struggle with the Aesthetic qualities of the objects It produces. Beyond the blobjects that came out of the early years of CAD (see johnny ices first iMac), these ubiquitous plastic or powdery blobs feel cheap,clumsy and sterile.

Fortunately theres a plethora of more interesting ways in which we can produce objects directly from CAD files. The latest incarnation of apple’s aluminium cased products (imac, macbook etc) for are beautifully CNC’d from a single block of alluminium. I myself have been experimenting with ‘printing’ 3D objects with a vinyl plotter at home. The complexity of these paper models is low but the present an alternative to the look and feel of 3D printing whist retaining the warmth and richness sometimes lost in the process.


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