Taking 3D Printing From Art to Science

Bjarki Hallgrimsson, Anthony Dewar, Jeremy Laliberte
Carleton University


Bjarki Hallgrimsson | Anthony Dewar | Jeremy Laliberte
Carleton University 

The transformative technology of 3D printing is changing the manufacturing landscape as many household items can now at least in theory be produced and repaired at home. A hard look at the nature and extent to which this is happening allows design educators to better understand the implications for industrial design education. Increased access to 3D printing for the general public is resulting in increasingly easier to use machines and software, but does not always acknowledge how the design process involves more than merely making. 3D printing therefore has to be viewed in the context of how design itself has evolved particularly in the last 10-15 years, becoming exponentially more complex and demanding in a global and increasingly technologically connected world. The paper demonstrates how this technology does not supersede the design process, but rather modifies it. Examples of industrial design student projects shows how students are able to create unique artifacts utilizing low cost 3D printing that they would not have been able to propose, examine or verify prior to the mass proliferation of this technology. At the same time design guidelines for 3D printing are evolving, making this more art than science. Better education will ultimately come from the scientific research that is being conducted at many universities, including work currently being done by the authors. As this knowledge is folded into the design curriculum alongside more traditional manufacturing techniques, it allows students to distinguish themselves from the masses as design experts in the area of Digital Additive Manufacturing. This requires more than mere familiarity with different types of printers and materials. Specifically it includes an awareness of the market segmentation that is happening between high and low end systems catering to different markets. It also requires a highly analytical understanding of technical aspects such as the effect of varying infill percentage, anisotropic part performance and custom material control. Ultimately such knowledge will also lead to more creative and feasible solutions.