3D Printing

3D Printing & Sculpture: Deeper Definitions

The Van Gogh story I have written for 3DPI got me thinking ….

What is a sculpture? Can any 3D print be termed a sculpture?

3D printing is now a generic term for additive manufacturing – this, many of our much-loved readers will know. Sculpture is a generic term for a number of methods of achieving a 3D piece of artwork, but most are subtractive methods or moulding methods. Why does this matter?

Additive manufacturing, is founded upon the concept of making by adding. The two other generic ways of making are subtractive and moulding. Most objects that humans have ever made have been via subtractive means.

‘Sculpting’ gets differing definitions dependent upon which dictionary we look to, but, generally, generically it is a header for chipping away, chiselling and carving. The history of sculpture testifies to the majority of sculptural art-forms having been formed in this way. Only relatively recently has sculpting in 3D via moulds and casting, the second generic grouping, emerged.

And now we have 3D printing, where the “art” is created at the front end and the actual formation of the sculpture is mechanical. But, undoubtedly, this medium for sculpture will increasingly blur boundaries and definitions further.

Whilst forging and welding are high-energy technologies that are difficult to fit into the main categories aforementioned, additive manufacturing is essentially based upon the human technological breakthroughs in higher energy manufacturing methods. It takes a lot of energy in a small area to turn a plastic to liquid to then become a solid again in a different shape, let alone the energy required to sinter together titanium or melt metals together via electron beams.

3D printing, as an interchangeable generic term for additive manufacturing, will become, I would suggest, more applicable to the term sculpture when applied to that functional end. But, generically, the term sculpture will be more associated with subtractive methods than moulding, and moulding more than additive methods for many years to come.

It is certainly an interesting issue to ponder. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below ….

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