3D Printing and Art Blend at the University of Nebraska at Kearney

3d printed circle in white

It isn’t breaking news that 3D printing and additive manufacturing have revolutionized what the art world considers to be art. Just as definitions of what it means to “make” or “manufacture” are developing different trajectories thanks to the advanced technology of additive manufacturing, a boom in “additive art” has rocked the artistic community.

Last year, the Smithsonian Institution even accepted an unprecedented 3D-printed portrait of President Obama into their presidential collection. Art, science, and design seem to come together in this extraordinary medium, and artists everywhere are pushing the boundaries of what it means to create.

This trend is certainly applicable in the Midwest, as well. Earlier this year, we posted about the first-ever Minneapolis College of Art and Design digital technology show: “Beyond the Buzz: New Forms, Realities, and Environments in Digital Fabrication.” MCAD’s Digital Fabrication Lab allows students to utilize laser cutters and 3D printers in their printmaking, sculpture, installations, furniture creation, and more. As educational institutions begin to realize the possibilities of implementing 3D printing in their curricula, there will be more opportunities to use the technology in a wide variety of courses.

Take the University of Nebraska-Kearney, for example. The Kearney Hub reports that professors at the university are beginning to utilize 3D printing in the interior design, art, and art history departments. The college will even begin to offer “executive education” noncredit classes in 3D printing and other manufacturing technology, hopefully before the end of the year. The courses will be day-long or half-day and will focus on interactive lectures and hands-on learning with 3D printers.

Jeff Nordhues, a Family Studies and Interior Design professor at UNK, explains that “the better that you can understand how things are going to be fabricated that you’re designing, the better chance that you can account for that and design them. I think it’s really important and vital that students see that process and take part in it.”

One of the industries being modified by 3D printing is ceramics, as demonstrated by Mallory Wetherell, assistant professor in the art and art history departments at UNK. According to the UNK News, Wetherell was awarded a $3,094 seed grant for her project titled, “DeltaMaker 3D Printing in Ceramic.” She has since received her 3D printer, and her goal is to print objects using clay.

“The difference between the plastic and clay, other than the obvious, would be that you get more precise prints with the plastic,” she told the Hub. “The slip does not dry as quickly and therefore may move a bit between layers, resulting in a more organic or rudimentary looking object.” To see examples of Wetherell’s work, check out her portfolio here.

Another field using 3D printing in unexpected ways is interior design. Students first create files in computer-assisted design programs, and then print household items like cookie-cutters, vases, and more. And in a field where 3D-printed walls are no longer a new explosion in technology, it will be increasingly important for design and architecture students to understand the technology behind this type of creation.

If you’re interested in learning more about the courses offered that may utilize 3D printing, you may find UNK’s art department course catalog here. Questions? Comments? Leave them in the section below!

photo credit: Quadrifolium via photopin (license)