It's time to think about new things that 3D printing can do. So far its been model aircraft, lampshades and sculpture projects. I'm not interested in trawling the internet for generic 3D printed toys. Sure, it can be used for very small batch production but it's far from an efficient way to do things. The SUNBIRD would actually be really great at producing super complex one-off parts as prototypes but even as a designer I don't get prototyping work very much.
So if the superpower of 3D printing is being able to print whatever can be generated on a computer, I should figure out the most interesting and original things to draw on my computer first. I want to get creative and love art, so I'm thinking along these lines.
I'm Malaysian so I thought about the handmade stamps for making Batik. With the right CAD modeling and settings, a 3D printer could easily knock these out. These are currently made by skilled craftsmen out of metal. However when thy are used the are dipped into molten wax. I worried about the temperature of molten wax - 5- to 60 centigrade melting PLA. With the right choice or filament - Nylon or PET, a 3D printed stamp would work fine.
There would probably not be much of a demand for 3D printed batik stamps though. In the meantime I thought of other applications. Of course I chose an ancient Japanese printing technique that's slowly being lost to the world, woodblock printing.
There was a really great exhibition in Paris of woodblock print artwork by the famous Japanese artist from the 18th century, named Hokusai. It was a fantastic collection of his work but I found out later he had done so much in his near 70 year career, that there was only half of it on show. Despite being hundreds of years old, reproductions of his art have been used in mainstream media and are very recognizable, like this one below.
The method used to produce these amazing images is called woodblock printing and the art is called Ukiyo-e. It's essentially an early form of offset printing which is how many books, posters and newspapers are printed today. In Ukiyo-e, the artist uses hand carved wooden blocks to transfer ink to paper in a very precise way.
Can a 3D printer be used to make Japanese style woodblocks? Carving these blocks is really really hard to do and takes a long time, so I wondered if 3D printing could be used to make some sort of more accessible alternative for the budding artist. I doubt that a 3D printed version could ever match the beauty of a traditional woodblock print but it would certainly be fun.
I decided to convert a famous print of Mount Fuji by Hokusai into 3D data and started printing test samples to see what kind of print I could get. I'm running a slightly wider nozzle, 0.6mm so maybe the standard 0.4mm nozzle would be better to get the smaller details but take a lot longer. I am sticking 0.6mm.
I tried a few different Grasshopper algorithms with Rhino to perform an edge-detect function on jpegs that let me generate the lines I need to extrude and turn a photo into a 3D printable model. Here is a link to get the Grasshopper definition. Rooster - www.food4rhino.com/app/rooster
At first the numerous tiny details in the artwork caused print failures and I needed to really tweak the slicer settings. On the whole it was quite challenging to get all the details in like the trees at the foot of the mountain but so far they look pretty good. See below.
Looking forward to actually printing a proof of concept. I do foresee many issues with how the ink or paint will stick to the plastic but there is a type of 3D printing filament called Woodfill, which contains wood powder so... maybe this 'wood' be the best option:)
After doing a few successful 3D prints, it struck me that this process could be used to convert artwork into a medium to let blind people feel and see a piece of artwork too. But that is for another post.