University art departments have been among the early adopters of 3D printing. Artists, designers, and creative thinkers are applying this disruptive technology to produce complex works of art that would have been proven costly, time-consuming or otherwise impossible with traditional forms of fabrication. For Washington DC-based artist, Emily Biondo, 3D printing provided a streamlined production process and customized solutions for her latest interactive art exhibit.
Headspace (Translation Series) is a travelling exhibit that was most recently installed at American University in Washington DC. The interactive electronic exhibit translates classic literature from the 18th-19th century into modern day vocabulary used by tech-savvy millennials. The installation is equipped with 13 classic novels, each paired with a set of headphones and handset reading device. Participants can scan highlighted text with the help of RFID readers to hear a modern day translation consisting of pop culture references and the latest internet jargon.
To make the exhibit interactive at an attractive lead time and cost, a kit of customized 3D printed parts were produced which included the headset, ear phones, handset, 13 customized mounts to showcase the literature, and a top hat which housed the electrical equipment on the headset. Stratasys’ durable thermoplastic 3D printing material provided the perfect mechanical properties needed to withstand the stress of multiple use.
“In my initial design concept, I used polyester fabric to encase the electronics used with the headset and handset devices,” said Ms. Biondo. “The fabric lacked the durability needed to remain fully functional, and I found myself spending a great deal of time on maintenance and repairs.”
The project was in need of a solution that would quickly yield strong, fully customized parts without losing the aesthetic appeal the she was trying to achieve. Ms. Biondo was familiar with the capabilities of 3D printing through previous collaborations with Amtek Company, Inc. She worked with Amtek consultant, Alex Baddock, to develop a series of custom parts that were 3D printed on the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D Printer in ABSPlus material. The durable thermoplastic provided the perfect mechanical properties needed to withstand the stress of multiple use.
The customized 3D printed elements included the headset, ear phones, handset, 13 customized mounts to showcase the literature, and a top hat which housed the electrical equipment on the headset. Overall, the 3D printed pieces provided a much cleaner presentation than the initial design concept and held up much better than the fabric that was initially used.
“This type of project is perfect for 3D printing because we were creating low volume parts that were relatively intricate,” said Mr. Baddock. “If we only had access to CNC equipment, we would have spent at least twice as long on the design and infinitely more time producing the parts. Additionally, we would have had to sacrifice some of the details we were able to achieve with 3D printing, because it would have been too difficult to machine.”
Ms. Biondo expects 3D printing to play a significant role in future ventures. She adds, “3D printing is a wonderful tool for artists—especially for those without well-equipped fab studios or access to costly manufacturing processes. It provides a streamlined approach, which allows me to create perfectly fitted elements of my work without occupying an extensive amount of time.”