Over the past few years, we have seen 3D printers created for large-scale prototyping, as well as machines made by hobbyists for bringing their own products from concept to reality. We’ve also seen artists use unique 3D printing techniques in order to visualize art in ways it has never been seen before.
One man, named Jon McTaggart, elected to build his very own 3D printer as a means to create objects which he simply refers to as “Artifacts.” These Artifacts are McTaggart’s way of bringing a little bit of traditional craftsmanship into a world now overridden by digital technologies.
“Before the age of mass production, each and every object was completely unique, owing its materiality, texture and eventual form to [its] own place and moment of creation in the hands of the skilled craftsmen and women of their time,” McTaggart tells 3DPrint.com. “This stands in sharp contrast to the precise cloned objects we as a society have grown accustomed to use and own in modern times. “
So McTaggart came up with a new way of combining digital design and manufacturing tools with the more traditional means of craft-like fabrication, in a process which he says emphasizes the “grace of creation” rather than the “precision of outcome.” In doing so, he worked on creating a 3D printer that would be capable of printing objects out of local sands and ground coverings found around various locations where the project would take place.
“The fact that each kind of sand and earth is littered with ‘imperfections’ which both capture and symbolize a materialistic moment of time of a given place where used as the base material of the objects,” he tells us.
Using different food-safe resins, McTaggart found that he could bind these various sands and other materials together. It was just finding a means of creating a machine capable of doing so in a precise manner; a machine which could deliver the exact amount of required resin to the given areas of the sand, in order to fabricate a 3-dimensional object.
He discovered that while there are many 3D printers currently on the market that are capable of the required precise movements, none were quite powerful enough to be able to print within a deep bucket full of sand, like what he intended to do. This led him to use a YASKAWA-Motoman MH250 industrial robot, which is capable of both high precision and incredible power–enough power to work its way through a tall bucket of sand.
A special tool attachment was then created which allowed for an exact amount of resin to be pumped slowly out of the robotic printer as it moved along a programmed path. This resin would be extruded onto the sand, forming hard solid areas where absorbed.
“The robot’s inbuilt programming language was supplemented using a custom Grasshopper script that was written to help translate vector geometry into code that was then uploaded to the robot via a Yaskawa-Motoman DX-100 Controller,” McTaggart tells us. “The resulting process allows for highly precise 3d objects to be ‘printed’ in local materials in a way not possible with any other method.”
As you can see in the video below, the printing method, though similar in concept to inkjet 3D printing, is quite different than any process we’ve seen before. No individual layers of sand are required to be spread on top of one another. Instead, the power of the printer itself works its way through all of the material.
McTaggart believes that “Artifacts” raises questions about the “personalization” of objects in a modern age where everything pretty much is fabricated based on a few designs.
“By offering the user the opportunity to manipulate the raw material itself, a much deeper control over the character and identity of the object may be achieved,” he explains.
As you can see in the video below, the results are quite interesting, almost as interesting as the printing process itself. What do you think of this technique and what McTaggart is doing with it? Discuss in the ‘Artifacts’ 3D Printing forum thread 3DPB.com.