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Japan’s Mojamoja Contest Picks Winning Art from Failed 3D Prints

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One person’s trash is someone else’s art. We’ve heard that before. It’s the basis of an entire artistic genre that began in the 1950s with experimental artwork made from scrap metal, waste paper, and other found objects. It seems junk art has pierced the Japanese 3D printing territory now that 3D printing service provider Melta hosted a contest to evaluate art from failed prints. This highly-publicized Mojamoja contest gathered some of the most visually stunning pieces of unique plastic artistry, including character cosplay props gone wrong and tangled resins that appear to be shaped like fruits or flowers.

We have seen prints go awry in the past, and in the early 2010s, dozens of images flooded 3D printing forums and social media groups under titles like “beautiful failures” or “3D print failure turned pure art.” Enthusiasts usually search for a unique quality in their failed prints, something that will turn their piece into a work of admiration for fellow 3D printing users, especially considering the failure rate related to printers. For example, commercial FDM 3D printers have around a 20% failure rate, and that number will increase if printers are homebuilt. So there is a lot of room for imaginative play with failed prints. However, for Melta and its Mojamoja contest, it’s much more than that. They have taken this art form one step further.

Under the motto “failure is a sign of challenge,” the contest praises the meltdown of plastic 3D printing. Born during the pandemic as a Twitter challenge, Mojamoja became popular enough that in April 2022, Melta decided to host a second challenge. This time around, participants could upload their art on Twitter or present it live to a group of judges, who could see, touch, and evaluate the pieces.

From left to right: Maywa Denki, Etsuko Ichihara, and Gal Den Kyoko

Artists Maywa Denki, Etsuko Ichihara, and Gal Den Kyoko participated in the judging of the Mojamoja contest. Image courtesy of Melta.

Out of a total of 120 submissions, judges Nobumichi Tosa from avant-garde performance art group Maywa Denki, media artist Etsuko Ichihara, electronic performer Gal Denkyoko, and Melta president Hiroyuki Uchino chose the winning pieces and runners up for the two categories.

The top prize in the live and Twitter section of the contest went to sculptor Yojigen-kun, who presented an all-white resin sculpture, which was initially intended to be a female fantasy role-playing (FRP) character. He received ten boxes of 3D printing filament for his work, along with a trip to Takayama, a city in Japan’s mountainous Gifu Prefecture.

Failed 3D print won the Mojamoja contest.

This failed print was the big winner of the Mojamoja contest. Image courtesy of Yojigen-kun

In a social media post, Yojigen-kun said the 3D printing art “incident” was so “catastrophic” that he laughed when he saw it. It turns out the sculpture is the unintentional result of a wrecked printer after the artist tried to double the diameter of the nozzle from 0.4 mm to 0.8 mm to increase the output speed. By doing so, he damaged the printer, a FlashForge Guider II, so that as the platform began to tilt, the resin continued to outpour, even slipping down. The outcome is what Yojigen-kun describes as “alien eggs in the field.” For Judge Uchino, the shape of the work is one he hasn’t seen much, and he stated that it is “dignified and suitable for the grand prize, creating visual impact and rarity.”

For the second place in the live section, referred to as the “Big Prize,” the judges chose a character cosplay prop gone wrong. Virtual YouTuber Hyper Toy Creator received an award for his failed work of famous hololive Virtual Youtuber La+ Darknesss’ horn (seen below in one of her YouTube posts). This time, the filament broke while the job was printing, and when Hyper Toy Creator added another filament, the joint of the printed piece broke.

Character cosplay prop failed 3D print.

Character cosplay prop failed 3D print, representing one of the horns used by Virtual Youtuber La+ Darknesss. Image courtesy of Hyper toy creator.

Hyper Toy Creator said that normally, the job should have continued to come out irregular. Yet, it started working normally, resulting in a more impactful shape that has one of La+ Darknesss’ horns stand out amid a pool of tangled “plastic spaghetti” coming off of the bed, probably one of the most common ways any 3D print can fail. This particular work was chosen for its sheer size, which exceeds a 500 ml PET bottle. However, the impactful piece drew much attention and earned its artist a coveted prize, a soundproof room by Otodasu, ideal for housing a 3D printer.

In the Twitter section, the big award went to a faulty speaker enclosure that Twitter 3D printing hobbyist Takeota’s greed miscellaneous notes posted online. According to the winner, he left the printer running and went off to work. So after scheduling it for the 60-hour job, the modeling progressed, and then a cable was caught in the modeled object, causing the base plate to shift immediately. “I will never forget the shock of discovering it when I got home from work,” he stated on a social media post. But, shock or no shock, the judges liked it, and the work won its author a 3D Printer Filament Ultrafuse ABS Fusion, plus three color sets courtesy of Japan 3D Printer.

Other winning pieces included an unfinished angel wing, a wobbly-looking pancake tower, and a waterfall of tangled filament. Several of the other winning works can be seen in the image below, and the 120 pieces competing in the contest can be found on Twitter under the hashtag #Mojacon.

Mojamoja contest winners.

The Mojamoja contest winners for 3D prints gone wrong. Image courtesy of Melta.

Following the announcement of the award winners, the chosen pieces were exhibited at Tokyo’s Mikan Shimokita, a five-story complex under the elevated Shimokitazawa Station that welcomes experimental challenges and projects. The Mojamoja contest exhibition, held last April, was actually part of the opening event of Mikan Shimokita and drew a lot of attention from passersby that were curious to see how failure can turn into art.

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