Want to be a part of something big? Join in on the world's first collaborative 3D printing project. The name of the project is "Linked" and it's meant to symbolize the combined power of the 3D printing community. The company behind the project, PrintToPeer has invited everyone – both those familiar with 3D printing and those who are new to the craft – to design a medallion which will be included in their unique sculpture. The individually contributed medallions will be connected in a new and unusual shape each time the piece is displayed.
In order to contribute to the project you'll need to visit the PrintToPeer website. Users without CAD experience can upload a photo and the interactive website will model a relief of the photo onto your medallion. When you're finished, PrintToPeer will automatically create the files you need to make your project printable. If you don't own a 3D printer you can send those files to Shapeways or iMaterialise to have them professionally 3D printed. More advanced users can download the plans for a blank medallion and modify them with their favorite CAD software. Once your piece is printed, mail it into PrintToPeer and they will include it in all their future displays.
The first stop for Linked will be the upcoming Beakerhead festival of art and engineering in Calgary, Alberta, on September 14th. De Boer, who is the artistic director for PrintToPeer, plans to link all the medallions together for the first installation. With future installations De Boer plans to ask local artists to help him assemble the sculpture in new and exciting ways. The generic shape of the medallions offers nearly limitless design possibilities. Each piece snaps together and unsnaps as needed, allowing them to be used again and again in a variety of ways.
The four person team behind PrintToPeer isn't just working on Linked. They are also in the process of creating a cloud platform that allows you to remotely manage your 3D printers. Anyone who signs up to participate in Linked will automatically get a private Beta invitation for their new software. Until the release of their new platform, the whole PrintToPeer team is focused on Linked and they can't wait to show it off. "Linked will be the world's first collaborative 3D sculpture, created by makers and hobbyists across the world," said De Boer. "3D printing is bringing open source creativity to the physical world and that's why we're making Linked – it's a celebration of the newfound power of the community."
Linked may be the first collaborative sculpture of its kind, but artists around the world are discovering the benefits of using 3D printers to share their designs. Stephanie Smith and Bryan Allen are working to produce the largest-scale 3D printed sculpture to date in the wilds of Northern California. Artist Aki Inomata is creating 3D printed artistic homes for hermit crabs and speculative designer Susana Soares is printing edible sculptures made from insect flour.