Artists have long understood the power of 3D printing when it comes to realizing their creative vision. The technology, now 25 years in the making, is capable of outputting designs which were, quite simply, impossible to produce with traditional methods.
And now the London Science Museum is on board with their new exhibition, "3D: Printing the Future." The collection includes 3D-printed sculptures, some startling and sublime pieces which demonstrate the power of the medium when it's placed at the service of artists.
The exhibition runs from Oct. 9, 2013 through July 10, 2014.
Content Developer for the show, Pippa Hough, says the exhibit is intended to "shine a light on the latest developments and discuss where 3D printing may take us in future."
"We aim to create a deeper engagement with our visitors," Hough said. "Those who were scanned can feel a physical connection with the exhibition."
The central fulcrum of the show is an enormous piece which features some 600 3D printed objects of biological interest like various skulls, the delicate surface of the brain, and a rather discomfiting pastiche of false teeth, prosthetic limbs and other out-of-context body parts.
The most captivating of the biological specimens, at least for my money, is the exceptionally-wrought version of a human lung by 3D guru Neri Oxman of MIT.
Oxman's Pneuma 2 was inspired by the construction of the human lung which features various materials and was printed with a Stratasys PolyJet.
Should you visit the museum you'll also see the standard array of chess pieces, sea shells, toys and bric-a-brac, but the exhibition is roughly organized around three categories: industrial items, medical pieces and consumer products, each of which contains a selection of relevant items.
Brian Derby of the University of Manchester, a professor who specializes in biomedical printing, says the medical portion of the exhibit has an underlying theme: utility. Derby says since it's imperative that printed organs "work and keep working," he thinks it will be years before printing actual human organs will become a practical reality.
There are, among the more positive and practical pieces featured in the show, some less attractive items.
Hough and the London Science Museum got a barrel of ink spilled their way earlier this year when they showcased a 3D printed gun back in July. According to Hough, the gun on display at the Science Museum is the first known example of a 3D printed gun actually fired in Europe. The work of Finnish journalist Ville Vaarne, the writer downloaded the design for the Liberator pistol from the internet. Vaarne's gun, which predictably exploded on its first use, has been permanently deactivated for the show.