AMS Spring 2023

Prince’s Shoe Collection Gets 3D Printed Tribute at Paisley Park

Inkbit

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Prince passed onto the next dimension five years ago, but, to his biggest fans, it still feels like yesterday that they lost one of the greatest U.S. musicians in modern history. His transcendental lyrics, riffs, beats, and melodies combined to create music that combined pop with something akin to spirituality.

While the artist may not be with us any longer, his presence is still with us. In addition to a massive discography, Prince’s Paisley Park residence, studio, and music venue in Chanhassen, Minnesota has been converted into a museum open for public tours. The latest addition to that site is called “The Beautiful Collection”, a new, limited-time exhibit that will display over 300 pairs of the artist’s iconic shoes.

To pay homage to the massive collection, Stratasys was contracted to 3D print two extensive pieces that have yet to be publicly unveiled. For that reason, we don’t have images of the works, but will update this article as soon as Prince’s estate grants rights to show them publicly.

Prince with his Cloud Guitar. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

One such piece was a 3D printed grand piano display case, featuring legs designed to replicate Prince’s famous Cloud Guitar. The piece is composed of 45 individual pieces, 3D printed with both fused deposition modeling (FDM) and PolyJet. The guitar is representative of the unpronounceable “love symbol” that the artist changed his name to in 1993 when he fought over Warner Bros. for co-opting his birth name, Prince.

To replicate the guitars, the team captured 250 scans of Prince’s Cloud Guitar, a process that took nine hours before 50 additional hours were needed to finish the design. The legs were then 3D printed in nylon 12-carbon fiber over the course of 63 hours on a Stratasys F900 printer, necessary for the large shape.

Additionally, the 3D printing stalwart produced a 9’ x 9’ image of the artist, which it is calling the largest 3D printed canvas. The work is made up of 56 pieces of white denim jetted with over 347,000 PolyJet dots, no two of which are the same. PolyJet is capable of printing more than 500,000 combinations of colors, textures, gradients, and transparencies down to the micron level. While we have seen PolyJet 3D printed onto fabric, this is the largest application of the technology in this way.

Combined, the two works took 751 hours to print, with 40.1 lb (18.2 kg) of PolyJet resin and 2,150 cubic units of FDM material. The canvas project required 76 hours of continuous printing, with each dot a clear spherical cell with layers of color contained inside. There is strong potential for 3D printing in the world of fabrics, but competition in the space is still limited. In addition to Stratasys, Kornit Digital and Voxel8 are the only two companies that I am aware of marketing technologies for jetting resin onto clothing.

Worn by Prince to perform “Purple Rain” at the 1985 American Music Awards. Image courtesy of Tony Sylvers.

The piano required 50 hours of design work to produce 38 FDM, nylon 12-carbon fiber structural parts using Stratasys F900 and Fortus 450 machines. ASA Black covers were additionally printed. Seven PolyJet parts were made from VeroUltra white and VeroUltra black to replicate the piano keys and a decal on the guitar that would have been otherwise impossible to make. The final piece measures 61” x 84” x 44”.

As a die-hard Prince fan, I cannot resist a tour of Paisley Park. The impetus to go there is now even stronger and, while there are probably even more dedicated admirers that would put me to shame, few will be able to have the same love of both Prince and 3D printing as I do.

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