3D printing

3D printing

About two centuries after the invention of photography, we’re faced with a similar problem. People at that time asked themselves whether photography would eventually annihilate painting and similarly, today, we make conjectures as to whether 3D printing will have the same effect on jewellery making. Just as photography did not put an end to painting and on the contrary was generator of new movements, such as Impressionism, in the same way 3D printing will probably not devastate jewellery making, but will simply change some ways of working and, at the same time, may open new avenues to be explored. Of course, as in the past, there will be those who will cry out in turmoil that nothing is as it was.

The idea of completely skipping the middleman and being creators of our own inventions is certainly a tempting idea and fruit of the new 2.0 world, a world in which we are all creators of something. In this new productive process, both designers on one hand, and the sales world on the other, are making a complete reorganization, so as to become conscious of the potential of this new Ptolemaic revolution, where the customer is once again the centre of the “creative” universe. Everything will be designed in function of customization. Items will be modular, assembled, modified in infinite variations, custom made, ordered from thousands of miles away. It will be like becoming children again and playing with Lego! Everyone will be able to build an enchanted castle.

Amazon has already implemented this, by introducing the online 3D Printer Store, Shapeways, where anyone can order their own jewellery, but better still, for a mere 180 Euro we can have our own 3D printing machine at home and, at that point, we can even skip the online store! Like all revolutions, this new way of producing will lead to significant conceptual and behavioural changes, not so much now, but in the near future when this technology will have penetrated our lives, just as computers and cell phones have changed the way we relate to other people.

At this point, however, we may ask ourselves what is the point of making finished pieces, what is the point of making hand made items and above all, what is the point of making unique pieces. These questions are not new to us. With the industrial revolution we were already made to face them long ago. The perspective from which we answer these questions is what is new. For the moment, this announced wonder is just like Cinderella waiting for the pumpkin to turn into a carriage.

As a matter of fact, 3D printing is far from being a new technology. Industry has already been making extensive use of it for the construction of prototypes for medical prostheses. It requires good technical and programming skills in rapid prototyping CNC (computer numerical control), therefore, not exactly for everyone. Moreover, at the moment, is not particularly suitable for large-scale production given the length of time it takes to produce a single piece of a limited size.

No doubt, however, this technology is shaking the world of creativity through a frenzy of experimentation in all fields, including jewellery. New challenges are emerging, not only of an artistic nature, but also on possible legislative implications. Think, for example, of the possibility of constructing weapons at home such as the so called “wiki weapons” (printable guns).

Those however, who want to print their own jewellery from home (rather than a gun), should be aware of a few basic limitations that still accompany this technology. The printed product is, in most cases, made of polymer material, hence very fragile, with surfaces that are often rough, since the pieces are constructed layer after layer. This implies that the pieces need to be finished off by means of traditional goldsmith techniques, so not exactly child’s play, but being the potential so great, it won’t be long before this technology, today a prerogative of a few experts, becomes the new frontier of the globalized economy in the near future, making a complex technology available at a low cost, so that it will be practically impossible not to use its readily available services.

This may sound nostalgic, but it isn’t. It is sufficient to note that creativity is in the hands of few people who decide when, where and above all what to look at and use. We live in a world of Apps (there’s one for every taste), a world of downloads, television on demand and the list goes on. Luckily there is still the other side of the moon, where creative possibilities will greatly increase, as well as places and contexts in which to operate.

It is always good to remember that creativity exists in spite of technology. Behind each machine or printer, there is always a woman or a man making a difference. In conclusion, we could create a motto for a new art manifesto: “Creative people from all over the world, come together and print!”.

Author: Francesca Lombardo - Content Writer


Tags: 3D printing