For students at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago – SAIC – 3D printing was an experience that limited their expression and usually broke their bank accounts. Most 3D printing options available to students restricted them to a single color, or a small handful of basic colors. While some artists are able to work within those limitations beautifully it did reduce the pool of students who were capable of using the technology to create art. There was plenty of desire to explore the new medium but technology simply hadn’t caught up to the young artists’ visions.
Price was also a major concern for many students. SAIC is located in the center of Chicago, Illinois, so students living in the area needed to be very careful how they spent their often limited budgets. When 3D printing materials are capable of costing between $5 to $15 per cubic inch experimenting with the medium could get pricey so many students would play it safe and stick to less expensive options.
When the manager of the advanced output center Mike Dorries was looking for options that could produce color models faster and at lower operating and material costs he stumbled on the Mcor IRIS 3D printer. Dorries was surprised to discover a full color 3D printer that could produce objects in multiple colors as crisp and detailed as a 2D printer.
IRIS can produce models with more than one million colors simultaneously, and maintain the vibrancy and complexity of the original digital file. In fact it is the only full-color 3D printer capable of using the International Color Consortium map, which is the global-standard color management system. IRIS unarguably produces the industries most impressive, highly realistic color models, and it does it using basic white printer paper, which only costs the students 25 cents per cubic inch.
“The combination of an unprecedented color palette, extraordinary colour detail and pure economy blew open our 3D printing program. At SAIC, architecture and designed objects students had been the primary users, but the Mcor IRIS has attracted students from across all of our disciplines, including sculpture, animation and fashion.” Explained Dorries. “The 3D printed models are phenomenal, the quality is great, the color is deep, and the materials are ubiquitous.”
Naturally the results of giving artists a new medium to play with is going to produce a lot of surprising student artwork, even for the seasoned instructors at SAIC. Students were using the IRIS to create highly detailed buildings and architectural structures, avant-garde art pieces and even a line of clothing created using mathematical equations.
Professors even used it to recreate artwork and sculptures from museums like the Smithsonian Institution that have created 3D file databases of their inventory. That allows teachers to create replicas of objects as diverse as medieval battle armor and weapons or a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven. Dorries said that his students also discovered that prints from IRIS make ideal burnout patterns or molds for thermoformed plastic parts.
An old art teacher of mine once told my class that a great artist doesn’t need great tools to produce great art, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have them. I’ve read about a lot of 3D printers, 3D printing methods and materials and I’ve even gotten to see and touch a lot of them in person. I won’t say that Mcor’s is the best full-color 3D printer around because the diversity of materials and processes allow different printers to shine in different ways, but I certainly can’t imagine a better 3D printer in the hands of an artist than the IRIS.