Additive Manufacturing Strategies

CalArts Student Experiments with 3D Printing Light

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IMG_2444Not all 3D printing is meant to last. When CalArts student Aaron Bothman decided to print something for his short film The Red Witch, his thesis project, he wanted it to be less permanent. Having seen the work of Beijing-based artist Ekaggrat Singh Kalsi, who has used a modified 3D printer to ‘print’ in light, he found his inspiration.

Not something that you can pick up with your hands, the product of this technique is something that can be captured on film, which is exactly the medium in which Bothman works.

He and his father worked together on building the printer, a small delta model constructed from a kit but with a particular twist. When assembled, an LED was placed where the hot end would usually have been installed. This allows Bothman to capture the light on film by using a long exposure while the printer runs the model, tracing out the shapes as a 3D light painting.Ripple_400x400

This isn’t the first 3D printing project that Bothman junior and Bothman senior have worked on together. In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Aaron talked about his experience printing with his father and how it has influenced his work both while at CalArts and after graduation:

“I’m an animator and artist based in Los Angeles. I graduated from the animation program at CalArts a couple months ago, and am currently working as an artist at JibJab, a small studio in LA. I originally learned about 3D printing in middle school from my dad, who teaches mechanical engineering at UCSB, and who helped a lot in thinking through this project. As a stop-motion filmmaker, 3D printing allows me to tackle more ambitious projects on a short production schedule than I might be able to otherwise.”

In order to create the light animation, each Maya image to be captured is sent to the printer one frame at a time. Over time, these images create the illusion of movement, just as is done in more traditional stop motion filming. The result is a piece that is built up in layers, requiring the same mode of conceptualization as a 3D printing project but with the option Wave_400x400for movement and, of course, no support materials. In fact, no materials at all, something that makes this a particularly appealing way to engage in a 3D printed project if there is no need for the product to be tangible.

Somewhat akin to the old question about a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, the question that could be asked of this technique could be: when a 3D printer creates something that cannot be touched, is it still 3D printing? The creations don’t truly occupy space or at least they only do for a fleeting moment but as they dance before your eyes, I think you may be willing to set that debate aside for a moment. Just think of it this way: with this technique, you could print all you want and never run up a bill for filament and never have to worry about storage space.

And that sounds pretty ideal to me.

Let us know what you think about this concept in the 3D Printing with Light forum thread at 3DPB.com.

 

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