3D Printing Meets Fine Art

If you take enough pictures from enough angles, you can use photo-stitching software and a 3D printer to produce a duplicate of a sculpture. Cosmo Wenman demonstrates the process in this video:

Once one person has done this and posted the specs online, anyone with access to a 3D printer can make more copies. Or you can make adjustments to create your own derivative works.

Virginia Postrel's latest column explores the implications. Here's an excerpt:

The technology is still primitive and frustrating, and the scans it produces are far from perfect, but the future is clear. The masterworks of three-dimensional art are joining the digital commons. For art lovers, this technological moment represents a tremendous opportunity. The combination of digital scans and inexpensive 3-D printing could do for three-dimensional art what prints have been doing for paintings and drawings for 500 years: make these works familiar, beloved and visually influential to people who will never have a chance to see them in person.

"If you're an art teacher who can get your hands on a MakerBot, you can now create a section of the Met that you can have in your classroom to inspire your students," says Bre Pettis, the co-founder and chief executive officer of MakerBot Industries and a former middle-school art teacher in Seattle. It's a chance, in Wenman's words, "to spread faithful reproductions of treasured artwork far beyond the walls of elite palaces."

The question is how the elite palaces will react. Will the institutions that own the originals encourage making data maps public? Or will museums try to lock up the digital versions of their treasures, so that duplication becomes a pirate activity? Attempts at the latter might ultimately fail, but they would still slow down and stigmatize a process that could greatly enhance the value of the world's artistic heritage.

Read the rest here. Read Postrel's Reason articles here. Read Wenman's Reason articles here.

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  • ||

    You think this is a good idea. You just wait until Warty gets a hold of it to grace us with a copy of his boner.

  • Ska||

    Counter-argument - Scarlet Johansen's tetas.

  • ||

    Well played. I could tolerate the Golden Calf of Warty to gaze upon those titties.

  • Sam Grove||

    Please, it's Scarlett Johansson.

  • Sam Grove||

    Remember, two "t", yes, yes.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Isn't the point of art to have the original? Who brags about having a copy of Piss Christ?

  • robc||

    Isn't the point of art to have the original?

    No. That might be the point of "collecting" art, but that is something entirely different.

    Im fine with a CD of music, for example, I dont need the original studio tapes.

    The ripoff of Van Gogh's Irises hanging on my wall isnt as pleasing as the original, but it was much nicer on my wallet. If the "efficiency" of art is equal to enjoyment/cost, then it is much more efficient than the original.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I hate the idea of classic art. The low expense and personalized nature of art make it incredibly decentralized, yet we still cling to famous prints and pieces as if, out of the millions produced, these are somehow hands-down the best. That's been one of the great things about recording technology becoming so cheap; yeah we have to wade through more junk, but we aren't restricted to only that which comes out of the large production companies. I hope people use this new technology to create, not replicate. Maybe as a teaching tool this has some place, but even then, the focus on specific pieces that somehow represent periods or trends is a little ridiculous.

  • ||

    I've seen the Mona Lisa, and I was, like, "meh."

    I agree with Roger Water's definition of art: That the only thing that is important is whether it moves you. You want to see something that will move you...

    Watch it in High def, full screen, with the speakers up and the lights off.

    http://vimeo.com/42909676

  • Broseph of Invention||

    That's what gets me too: art is so subjective, yet we're supposed to channel our aesthetics into what marketing and media tell us is best. If there were production barriers I could understand limited outlets, but there really aren't anymore.

    Then there's just the whole derivative aspect of it. Look at video game controllers - there's no reason the Sega Master System controller couldn't have been ergonomical. We had plastic molding technology that could do it, but the NES controller was boxy, and people are just so interested in copying what's been done, that a box was the result.

  • Loki||

    Will the institutions that own the originals encourage making data maps public? Or will museums try to lock up the digital versions of their treasures, so that duplication becomes a pirate activity?

    Given how the recording industry initially reacted to MP3s, I'm betting on the latter.

  • Chloe||

    Once the technology gets better and they can create bigger replicas, there are a few sculptures that I wouldn't mind having reproduced.

  • Rasilio||

    You know I can imagine a lot of celebrities will be unhappy with this technology once the guys over at Real Doll figure out how to use it.

  • Azathoth!!||

    already done

  • Tim||

    Will we someday be able to 3d print at home a basketball floating in a toilet? Game changer!

  • Broseph of Invention||

    An amazing trick - take a small beach ball, put it in the toilet, and flush it. The toilet will drain and the beach ball will get sucked down, blocking the hole in the toilet. In the meantime, water will be flowing down the sides of the toilet, submerging the beach ball, which is held down by the suction. The suction will then release and the beach ball will pop out of the toilet due to it being submerged. Changed my life.

  • Tim||

    "If you're an art teacher who can get your hands on a MakerBot, you can now create a section of the Met that you can have in your classroom to inspire your students,"

    Yeah, first we had to pay for the Taco Bar in the teacher's lounge, now this shit?

  • Almanian...still||

    Meh - rapid prototyping. Been around (seemingly) forever. Art's no different than an engine crankshaft.

    Well, except that cranks are like, 1000 times cooler to look at - esp making them. Think of the math required to dynamically machine/grind/polish all those offset circles and centerlines to micro smoothness. It's an incredible thing to watch.

    Anyway - you can "print" a crank in an hour or so - moving on to recreating "The Thinker" after some laser mapping is just another application.

  • T||

    When they can rapid prototype a usable crankshaft, then I'll be excited. My legions of motorized death bots will follow shortly.

  • Tim||

    Will it be legal to scan cops?

  • DJF||

    What going to be interesting is when someone produces a cheap 3d printer combined with a scanner and any kid can take their latest patented/copywrited action toy, throw it in the scanner and produce ten more to give away to his friends

  • T||

    We're a ways off from that technology yet. Yeah, I can build plastic army men that way. But anything with moving parts is going to require a bit more, and clever designers will make disassembly impossible without damage.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I could see scanning/disassembly being difficult, but I think it's more probable that people use plans and prototypes. But I think you're right that the possibilities for reproduction are pretty limited. Molding is so much cheaper than this printing could probably ever be, there would have to be some intangible premium that makes printing worth it.

  • T||

    I'll also throw out the same issue that will always doom low-scale fab to be a niche market: Design is hard. Making a usable object is hard enough, and making something both functional and aesthetic is always going to be that much harder. Most people don't have the time or the skill set to do it. They'd rather go down to the store and buy something than go through the umpteen iterations to get a design tweaked just right.

    Hell, I design stuff for a living and nothing is ever finished. We just get it as close as we can and ship it. There's always room for improvement.

  • robc||

    Open source is where the design problem gets solved. Let the clever people who can design do it and some of them will release their designs.

    I can use linux without writing the kernel, I will let Torvalds continue to do it.

  • T||

    I'll just say I have lots of doubts about that as a model for physical onjects.

  • Rasilio||

    Seems to work with Cars, even the guys who heavily mod their cars don't cast engine blocks from scratch.

  • Sam Grove||

    with moving parts is going to require a bit more

    Done, a soluble medium is used to fill the gap, then dissolved after the object is completed.

  • tina||

    You don't necessarily have to be copying someone else's work like a print with this 3d technology. you could even become a 3d print artist and create your own stuff. i would want this to create 3d paper dolls for my daughter (i grew up with the 2d paper dolls) or sculptures to decorate with around my house. either way, this is awesome!

    check out my blog, youdontknowink.webspawner.com!

  • tina||

    You don't necessarily have to be copying someone else's work like a print with this 3d technology. you could even become a 3d print artist and create your own stuff. i would want this to create 3d paper dolls for my daughter (i grew up with the 2d paper dolls) or sculptures to decorate with around my house. either way, this is awesome!

    check out my blog!

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