Modeling and printing are part of an intertwined system, a cycle. This is described by Robin Sloan as the flip flop:

“the flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again—maybe more than once” (Sloan, 2012).

There is the original physical items which is then modeled and converted to data. At that point the data can be manipulated and reworked before finally being printed out again as a new object made of a new material.


However it seems disadvantageous to think of “Making” as a cycle or process. By thinking along the lines of this cycle all of the value gets placed on the final project. Either for or against 3-D printing the value of the object printed seems hard qualify. Lee  Rosenbaum finds them “counter productive” but it is not so clear what type of thing would be more productive. Liz Neely’s says the printed objects provide a “deeper engagement through the quality of the interaction” but I am not sure why holding a piece of plastic is more valuable than looking at a TV screen. Maybe it is, but I find it interesting that its so hard to quantify the value of the 3-D printed objects. 

Most of the value is explained in psychological terms and the emotional impact of physical objects.  It comes up over and over again. We are asked the “feel” the museum, or create an object that we can take home with us to “remember” the museum experience. In the New York Times piece about Martin Galese also has a hard time finding it significance in describing Galese’s work. “While Mr. Galese has only produced a handful of these as 3-D designs, he is still looking in the patent office archives for simple, charming objects with some kind of link to the past.”

I find it interesting that it is hard to find a quantifiable value in the objects being created, from original objects, that have a high value (at least in the reading examples) whether monetarily, aesthetically or historically.

On the other hand the value of digitizing the objects and recording ultra-specific data about the object seems obvious, in that it allows for global access and increased analysis of the physical world.  Take a look at Liz Neely’s description of the 3-D process:

“Introducing the opportunity to create a full 360-degree scan, which can then produce a 3D print, allows a visitor to go deeper into the experience of the object. The time that it takes to construct the virtual model means closely scrutinizing; making mistakes and fixing them; and finally producing a finished model that can be modified, printed, shared, modified again, mashed up with other models, printed again, and so on—in an infinite process of sharing and changing, all of which can be traced and mapped.”

The printing of the object is almost mentioned in passing. The real value is in the data and the digitization process. This is what allows the patron to “construct, scrutinize, produce, share, trace and map.” Printing the object out is not contingent of any of these steps. It might be nice to printing something and hold it, but it is hard for me to see the real value in it.

Overall, this ties into the fact that each step of the maker process is not contingent on all of the other steps. You do not need an original object to print a 3-D object and you do not need to print a 3-D object once it has been converted to data. For the purposes of analyzing the importance of 3-D modeling and 3-D printing I think each aspect of the process needs to be analyzed and qualified individually. There seem to be a few scenarios worth delving into:

  1. Creating a new item on a computer and printing it out.
  2. Taking a real world object and converting it to data
  3. Printing a replica of a real world object, perhaps as different scale
  4. Printing out an object from data that once existed but no longer exists
  5. Mash Ups: Mixing data and an original object and creating something new and different than the original document

There is a lot of big talk for or against 3-D modeling and printing as evidenced in the readings for class, but by dividing up the concept into these different tasks it should become easier to find the advantages and disadvantages of each rather than looking at the entirety of the 3-D world and getting lost in the shuffle. To be continued…