Tim Abrahams

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Send to Print: Print to Send

Icon February 2012

Far from being a simple survey of attractive design objects, the Aram Gallery’s Send to Print / Print to Send exhibition is a timely survey of the potentials of 3D printing technology; a round-up of the most interesting developments in the field produced in the last year. To date the potentials of the technology has been seen in developing models for work built in a usual manner. Indeed the technology has until recently been described as rapid prototyping. However the technology is not only being used to create limited editions such as Large Oval Yellow Bloom by Michael Eden, but it is now being integrated by designers into a manufacturing system.

In the future the local 3D printer could replace the post-office as a community centre.
Assa Assuach’s multi-coloured lemon squeezers may be the most unassuming object shown at the Aram but they are potentially the most revolutionary. Customers are allowed a limited degree of personalisation of their product within parameters proscribed by a designer. Furthermore they have been created for a system not unlike the one that Hugh Aldersley Williams, writing for the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), suggested whereby objects designed at a central point can be formed locally on demand. Typifying a general shift in thinking, Assuach has moved from creating complex biomorphic design pieces to proposing a complex system that creates simple objects in old factories. At an industry -defining discussion at the RSA, which took Aldersley Williams's ideas forward Assuach suggested this approach to 3D printing could totally change our relationship to cheap goods. ‘Europe could become a farm for these production spaces,’ he says.

One of the most fascinating dimensions brought about by the exhibition is the performative element. The attraction of watching an object materialise could play an important part in establishing and attracting users to a network of localised production of more or less standardised products using 3D printing. In the future the local 3D printer could replace the post-office as a community centre. Watching the crowd gather round the film of Kayser’s Solar Sinter project makes this sound less far-fetched. Indeed it is salutary to note that when the products are exhibited without the machinery that makes them such as Vander Kooji’s Endless Rocking Chair, the appeal of these objects diminish.