3D printing – artists (and arts education) are on it


my 3D self with my 2D mitochondria

A year ago:
I listen to an interview about bio-medical engineering and the printing of body parts. The program discusses the successful printing of ligaments and nerves while noting hollow organs (with volume or space), like a bladder, present particular challenges.

What is three-dimensional  printing? How do they do it? Can I print out a two-dimensional  art work and turn it into a three-dimensional object? I want to understand.


what we see as we enter a student area

Fast forward to last month’s Art Detour:
We come across Andrew, a grad student at ASU’s Grant Street Studios,  who  facilitates  a scanning workshop for the weekend. Before I know it, I find myself standing on a hand-made spinner  (think turntable or lazy susan). I am directed to hold still (for I can’t recall how many full revolutions) while Andrew explains the process to me. This is his make shift area.

Oh! The printing derives from full circle photography! I understand!


Photo process begins.




Photograph process as it appears on the screen.


Andrew explains process.



Andrew photographs the subject (an object), in this case me, in circular pattern, top to bottom.  He collects a file of digital images and directs them through a receiver to build the print.  He re-shoots my feet, he wants to get them right. He explains he wants my printed self to stand firmly and evenly and not tip over. Funny, I want my real self to do the same.


The printing occurs in a form of additive manufacturing (AM) – depositing layers of plastic or resin until the three-dimensional object (a form) is complete. I learn this printer is a type of industrial robot.


An image is being printed from an earlier run that morning. It takes time for the completion of prints.

When I receive my printed portrait (a few weeks later) I ask Andrew if this is the same process they are doing in the medical field with the printing of body parts. My sense is this material is too stiff.
He responds:

This sort of 3D printing is being done in the medical field in town! Dr. Ryan, a recent PhD graduate from ASU, has used this same technology to assist in surgical preparation. Here is one of several articles on it: → Cardiac 3D Print Lab This project in particular is being used for educational purposes. But there are other types of 3D printers that can print in more flexible and organic material. And there is research being done on bio-printing, allowing actual living organs to be printed with real human tissue, but this is still young.

 A changing world indeed. And artists and the arts are moving right along side with it!


my printed self in the nucleus of the cell

Next month I will participate in an exhibition titled STEAM  – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math. The exhibition at the Tempe Center for the Arts will showcase artists who work within some of these parameters. I will connect to the Science with my anatomy work.

Andrew Noble will be giving a 3D printing demo on July 16 from Noon-2pm. Andrew and Dan Collins will have a 3D body scanner in the exhibition from ASU’s PRISM lab.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s