Action becomes Object through 3D printing

Fluid Vase – Action becomes Object on Vimeo on Vimeo

Having began some initial model making I wanted to investigate the most current, accurate way of producing prototypes as well as final designs.


3D printing is a process whereby a 3D design is turned into a real object. First, software is used to slice the 3D design into layers, and then the design is printed layer by layer on a 3D printer. Because each object is built up uniquely, 3D printing is the choice for people and companies who want to make unique and customized items, or small series of objects. In contrast, other processes, such as injection molding are much better at making thousands or millions of copies of something cheaply.

Here is a video that explains the printing process from start to finnish :


The amazing splash vase video at the beginning of my post demonstrates the accessibility of 3D printing to all kinds of people. Sites such as Shapeways and i.materialise  offer their print services to anyone who would like to make their own idea, they also offer ready-made files such as the splash vase for those who just want to personalise an existing design. These sites offer a variety of printable materials and finishes but here are a few examples.


You can now 3D print in a host of different materials such as ABS plastic, polyamide (nylon), glass filled polyamide, stereolithography materials (epoxy resins), titanium, steel, wax, photopolymers and polycarbonate





Metal’s are often used to 3D print jewellery and home wares, its expensive but very beautiful.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 13.11.14

These lamps are on example of a shared file that can be personalised and bought by anyone.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 13.12.17

These personalised lamps only show text when lit. This is one of the many benefits of 3D printing as it builds in layers, pattern text and even electronics are being embedded.


I was surprised to learnt that ceramic’s can also be  3D printed. constructed from alumina silica ceramic powder and sealed with porcelain and silica. The glaze that is applied after printing is a lead free, non-toxic gloss. The material is heat-resistant (up to 600°C), recyclable, and currently the only food safe 3D printing material. All of this makes it the perfect material for home decor stuff and table ware, and so I’ve begun to wonder if it may be the perfect process for creating my lamps.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 13.03.51

The process of manufacture is as follows :

“The printer builds up the model from bottom to top, layer by layer. A roller puts a thin layer of ceramic powder on a platform and a print head places organic binder at specific locations, printing a thin layer of your model. The platform lowers and the roller spreads another layer of powder. This process is then repeated until your model is completed.

The powder bed containing the printed model is removed from the 3D printer and placed in a drying oven. Drying increases the strength of the model though it’s still fragile at this point. After drying the model is extracted from the powder bed and excess powder is removed. The part is then fired in an oven to gain strength.

After the first firing a pre-glaze coating is applied. The coating is dried and then fired for a second time. Next the objects are glazed and fired for the final time. Now the shiny smooth glaze coating is evident.”

The forms I design for my lamps would need to be made in a compatable software but the site accepts many including sketch up. The file would take up to two weeks to be completes and sent back which means a decision would need to be made this week to meet my deadline.

I will experiment first with a range of materials available to me in the workshop before making a decision but it does seem like 3D printing would be an effective, way of creating my lamps as it has the following abilities that suite my design :

1. Ability to build in a good amount of detail. I could add indentations, patterns , holes and even text to the surface of my lamps.

2. An even wall thickness . This is a very important point when considering light distribution, the walls can be made as thin as 1.5mm.

3. A variety of materials and finishes. Although I like the idea of ceramic , the polymide flowers pictured below show how even plastics can give a lovely matt or polished finish that would be stronger than ceramic and thinner. Even 3D printed ceramics cannot be made with a wall thinner than 3mm.

4. Large quantities can be ordered and created with a short turn around and less margins for error than creating ceramics by hand.

5. Changes can be made very quickly with little hassle. A colour change, scale, texture or finish could be altered reasonable quickly to suit a clients need.

6. Combining new technologies with craftsmanship would make the designs a strong example of me as a designer. Having recently written a dissertation on a hands on approach to design, these lamps would be physical examples of how craftsmanship and modern technologies can marry together.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 13.08.52

This entry was published on April 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm. It’s filed under Final Major Project and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Action becomes Object through 3D printing

  1. Such a lovely post. I love the chaos and the potential for individuality in the piece.

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