How Technology influences Art - a research group at the Maastricht Institute of Performative Arts - Zuyd
Technology Driven Art
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Technology Driven Art

3D Printing


The next step — printing in light and dust - introducing new technologies - 2016-17 - a project by Eric Steenman (MAFAD Design)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers prove to have an awful lot of limitations due to a thermodynamic paradox, build into the concept of printing by melting plastics. It severely limits the possible outcome and makes the constant re-adjusting for different materials (and even colours within one chosen material) very discouraging. So we decided to introduce new technologies that have a more sound concept: Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM).

In the first phase of this research, we're introducing these technologies by making them freely available to students (and teachers alike). They are painstakingly researching the ins and outs, the (im)possibilities of these technologies for their design projects. As there is no tradition within MAFAD of using these technologies on a daily basis, it is primordial to get acquainted with them, before the critical process of reflection. At the end of each project (or year) they write a paper on their findings, which is published at the site.
In this pre-mature stage though, it is obvious that there is a huge difference between the 3D-printing-myth which is promoted in the popular press, and the actual possibilities of these FDM printers. To be blunt, a very dissatisfied customer base must be in the making. Until now, these enthousiasts seem to keep up with the limitations of this printing concept, probably blaming themselves for not being able to (re)adjust the printer. And most probably, they're printing these typical hyper symmetrical objects a FDM printer loves to print (although excruciatingly slow, but that's another story…).
These findings will be the subject of a new critical publication: 'Printing a Myth in 3D'…

Moore's Law at work - 2015-16 - a project by Eric Steenman (MAFAD Design)
MAFAD (the Design Academy in Maastricht) decided to purchase an extra 6 3D printers and to integrate the basic course in regular curriculum of Design. For 2016, the professorship Technology Driven Art will finance the purchase of two SLA 3D printing machines (which laserprints the object in a liquid) and build - in collaboration with Eric Steenman - a research course around it.

This all may seem very basic on a research level, and it probably is. But this project had an immediate influence on how 3D design evolved at MAFAD. It teaches us that writing is way more difficult than 3D-printing. It affirms the research assumption that technology proliferates at a logarithmic rate, after it has been introduced, even if the environment seemed to be a bit reluctant at first.

In the next years, we want to reflect with students and teachers alike on their symbiotic relationship with this new technology. How do they manipulate the technology and how does the technology manipulate them? How to deal with this symbiosis - how to describe and how to master it. In short: how to lead the dance…

Printing a Myth in 3D (2016-…)

first steps - 2014-15 - a project by Sascha Bien and Eric Steenman (ABK Design)
It felt a bit weird that 3D printing wasn't integrated yet in the regular teaching course of a design and architecture school. Design students attended a project of a few weeks where they could print some objects and the FachHochschule in Aachen, and some of them used the services of the local FabLab. But it wasn't an integral part of their regular design process.
Although the initial enthousiasme was quite low (Students will have no interest in it, 3D-printing ia already old news, students cause tied-party services for printing…), we installed 2 3D-printers (Ultimaker 2) and organised some introducing courses. The idea is that 3D-printing encourages a new way of 3D-Design, with 3d-design programs as the main tool. As a scenographer, I always conceived and designed my sets directly in 3D, with almost no preliminary sketches on paper. The research question is: will the introduction of these 3D printers challenge the supremacy of the pencil as the main design tool? And how will it influence the designs themselves?

Eric Steenman gave the introducing 3D design and printing courses on a voluntary basis. Eric Steenman guided the technical process of the printing.
Almost immediately after the introduction of the printers (which took some time), interest among students turned out to be huge. Everybody wanted to print. 3D-printing being an excruciatingly slow process, we had to limit access to the printers. So we asked all interested students to produce some kind of a one page motivation letter (could be anything). To our big surprise, we only got 4 letters out of some 40 interested students. Writing proved to be far more challenging than 3D-printing. This reflects the difficulty almost everybody seems to have (both teachers and students alike) to write any kind of 'public' or 'official' statement.
To put it bluntly: everybody hates writing. Or at least, most art practice teachers seem to avoid it, especially if they are asked to put in on a public blog. It most probably will not happen.

After a rocky start, and after some encouragements to write at lest something top apply for the course, some ten students started printing. After the first steps, printing downloaded models to get the hang of it, they started to explore the boundaries of 3D-printing. Can you print flexible textures and textiles? How thin can you print? Maybe the roughest (and speediest) quality has a useful, tactile texture?…
Quite quickly, the peculiarities of 3D printing (which are manifold) influenced the design concepts.

For more info: (under construction)