3D Printing as a Design Tool

The use of technology as a tool within the design process has always fascinated me. Over the past couple of decades, our industry has been revolutionised in ways that would have been difficult to imagine in times prior to the 1980’s – think CAD, 3D, Photoshop, scanners, digital cameras, LED lighting, laptops and justabout anything connected to the internet or requiring a charger!

Recently, 3D printing has been gaining prominence. As the powers and capabilities of the hardware and software improve, the costs become lower and the technology becomes ever more accessible. Whilst exploring a tangent on Google, I stumbled upon this wonderful video from Makerbot highlighting the work of theatre set designer, Kacie Hultgren. Kacie uses a 3D printer from Makerbot to “print” detailed scale models of props and sets for the set design models of Broadway productions she is working on.

For Kacie, a 3D printer has enabled her not only to save time, but also to plug a gap that existed in commercially available content.

A number of her designs are now available as ready printed models, or as open source downloads from Thingiverse that you print on your own 3D printer.

This ability to not only print designs for presentation, but then sell designs and models digitally suggests a paradigm shift in the way that designers work and market their work. There are downsides, not least the potential for piracy that has afflicted the music and film industry. Hopefully, designers will be quick to embrace this opportunity, but even quicker to design a means of securing their IP.