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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Lee

The Case for 3D Printing and Creativity– A Manifesto

As I'm writing this, my 3D printer is humming with activity. I'm printing a "new face" for myself so I will look beautiful. (See photo below.) Time and again, my mentor asked me, "why 3D printing?" She is not trying to give me a hard time but merely wants me to articulate my ideas to others. Nevertheless, I can't seem give her a direct answer. I just know that it's a good skill to have.

Yesterday, Ivy Ross of Google Hardware Design, shared with ArtCenter students that intuition comes from facts. 85% of what we know goes into the subconscious mind, while 15% goes into the conscious. Intuition or that gut feeling we have comes from that subconscious place. I need put on these silly glasses and tap into my subconscious to see why 3D printing is necessary once and for all.

One thing that she said resonated with me. When young people first started at Goggle, they sometimes get discouraged when a product they designed costs, say $70, all of a sudden has be reduced to $50. Gogglers, or so they are called, would get frustrated. If she were given a budget of $50, she would do her best job within the parameters of $50. To Ivy, restraint/limitation/rules allow room for creativity. When you're given unlimited time and resources, it's harder to be creative.

People often asks Ivy, "Are you a toy designer, jewelry designer... What are you?" To which she replies, "I'm more interested in solving problems than being confined by any discipline." She started out working with metal. By the time she was in her twenties, she was well recognized. Realizing that life is a journey and that the world is constantly changing, Ivy is driven to relentlessly reinvent herself. In fact, she can't sleep at night if she doesn't set forth a good idea into motion.

3D Printing Manifesto

(1) A print is everlasting. Not only is there a digital file, the actual print is quite sturdy.

(2) Multiples of something could be made. Kindergarteners could create their own manipulative for counting, making learning more meaningful.

(3) 3D printing by no means replaces traditional art but complements and enhances it. For example, when I teach printmaking, I could share with students that printmaking is a forerunner of 3D printing. Without printmaking, there would have been no digital printing or 3D printing. In addition, we could use 3D printing to design looms to make weaving art.

(4) Everyone could make adjustments on the original to create a better versions, as many times as necessary.

(5) Just like some kids are drawn to fabric arts or clay, others are be drawn to 3D printing. It is just another mode of communication.

(6) Connect analog with digital; there seems to be a disconnect with the handmade and digital. Kids and adults are affixed to their devices. With rapid prototyping or 3D printing, you can bring an object back and forth, from digital to analog.

(7) Found object artwork take on a new meaning. Students could download open source files of artwork; add/on, modify them to tell their version of the story.

(8) You could share your design/invention/thing with others from far away. 3D printing community invites collaboration from nearby and far. People get together for 3D meet ups locally. has a database of things people created and shared freely.

(9) Gives new meaning to drawing. In 3D printing, you draw the exact size that you want printed; no need to foreshorten or worry about perspectives.

(10) 3D printed parts could be used in conjunction to the handmade. Assemblage takes on a new meaning when you can composite found object and those created digitally.

(11) Students could get hands-on practice in math; measure and estimate of the size of their prints.

(12) Blind students could learn from 3D printed models. Artwork from the museums could be printed in small versions for students to touch and to feel.

(13) Design could be printed in a variety of materials based on application and aesthetics, not limited to the materials that they are originally made.

(14) Students could experience the process of making something from start to finish. They see the big picture, then be able to go back into detail as to how to change it. Failure as part of the process.

(15) There are printers often available at makerspaces at the libraries and at the schools, but not everyone is equipped to know how to use them or teach other people how to use them effectively.

(16) While it is important to solve the world's problems and to make people's lives easier, inventions do not come about without an opportunity to play and to explore.

(17) Students get tired of using technology to make things, if they are also required to meet math, science, and/or language art standards within the same projects.

(18) 3D printing is not a means to an end. It is a tool to create, just like a pencil, but with a different set of functions. How can you say no to having pencils in the classroom?

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