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3D Printing

Whilst employed with the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) I conducted research into textured 3D printing.  There is an article by 3D Printing Industry on the research available here.  I also wrote up the methodology for this work in an academic paper freely available here.

This research is the precursor to my pursuit of my ideas about Robot Poetics and the development of Drawing Robot.  During the calibration of a low cost Rostock Max 3D printer I noticed anomalies in the print quality, and decided to see if they could be reliably exploited.

Ordinarily, a 3D printer is programmed to move in a very consistent manner, printing (extruding) fixed amounts of material in specified locations.  This is application specific, 3D printers are used to print CAD models.  When using CAD, a lot of time is invested to accurately draw an object in the virtual space, and this is expected to be  physically reproduced as specified.

As such, a CAD based workflow mechanically simplifies the properties of the plastic material, essentially treating the hot plastic as discrete units like Lego blocks.   Treating the material like Lego blcoks makes the material much more predictable to work with, simplifing the problem of controlling the machine.

However, the material and machine offer more aesthetic potential if the constraints on printing quickly, reliable and efficiently are relaxed.  The 3D Printer I used was an FDM machine, meaning that it deposits hot plastic directly to a surface.  The nice aspect of this technology is that the machine directly manipulates (is in contact with) the material.  Therefore, the printed material is a physical trace of how the machine moved.  If the machine moves slowly, more plastic accumulated. If the machine moves quickly, less material accumulates.  Moreover, the material is hot and molten, meaning that it can be stretched, reheated and left to cool.  Together, these two elements - the physical character of the machine and material - can be played with to generate unusual print qualities.