Friday, May 22, 2015

+ / - , Actualization.

I've been thinking quite a lot recently about the term actualization and how it applies to making art with a 3D printer. It's based off of the root actualizing (v) - To make actual or real. 1

The term is interesting as it refers to taking that which is not real - Ideas - and making them real or actual, thereby meaning that in actualizing an idea it can become real but never actual and vice versa. It can be one or the other but never both.

In the world of 3D printers we deal with the process of making things real. Taking a .stl file and making it into an object, something you can hold in your hands, whereas before it had only existed as a digital file that was necessarily ideal.

However, in the process of printing - Actualizing - an object, an actual version of the object is not achieved. What instead is produced is an approximation of the model, reduced by the physical limitations of the machine used to actualize the model.

Constraints within 3D printing (layer heights, nozzle diameters, calibration imperfections, slicing, support materials, printing materials, ect...) all contribute to an imperfect translation from model file to real object. Take the example of a sphere, perfectly 40mm in diameter and hollow with 1mm walls. [ Model here if you'd like to try it yourself. ]


Cut to show wall width
I'll then slice it - a process that tells the machine what movements to perform as well as how to lay down material - with pretty standard settings for a FDM machine (I'm using a Prusa i3)- 
  • Material -  PLA
  • Layers - 0.3 mm
  • Nozzle - 0.4 mm
  • Infill - 100% rectilinear 
  • Speed - 30 mm/s
  • Support - None
  • Slicing - Slic3r
 Which I can then export to the machine print the object.

38 minutes later.

It's obvious that there are surface deformities present that compound upon the dimensional inaccuracies present from printing. The resulting object is an imperfect but real representation of the object.

Real objects can be achieved through additive manufacturing, but never perfectly actual versions of a 3D model. Actualization is a necessarily reductive process.

The using additive manufacturing is a reductive process.

Which to me, as an artist, is very interesting.

Taking a perfect idea, translating it into reality, and seeing what is lost in the process. I've started a series of pieces that I'll be showing here soon off of that idea.


  1. Can't wait to see. Brings so many things to mind.

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