Amazon Opens 3D Printing Storefront

Wait – what? Amazon now does 3D printing? It’s not much to speak of yet but their pilot 3D printing storefront could be huge. So far, the storefront has less than 50 products; mostly jewelry and smartphone cases. They all come printed in Nylon Polymide, and only the color is customizable.

Offering an on-demand 3D printing service is a nice initial step. Once designers are permitted to upload their STL files and offer printed output for sale, combined with Amazon’s market reach and distribution power, online 3D printing services could become prime-time. My head is spinning at the thought that Amazon’s 3D storefront could evolve to have service offerings similar to Shapeways.


Amazon 3DLT Storefront:


An Underwater Museum

Learning how to dive is one of those activities I wish I had made time to pursue. In addition to being able to be up close with amazing aquatic wildlife, swimming through old shipwrecks  always sounded like a lot of fun.

Now, imagine being able to swim through interesting works of art as well. Referring to Jason deCaires Taylor’s seabed sculptures as a museum may be a bit of a stretch but I bet it is a blast for divers.

Do you think it would be even more of an adventure if you have no hint about what the works are; before your dive?


Sculpture for Trees

Invoking the spirit of the old man in the tree is such a fun concept. Treebeard in “Lord of the Rings” is one great example. These “exterior accents” by Design Toscano caught my eye:

My first thought was that similar pieces could be done using a 3D printer. Color matching and water/sun resistance could be issues. Interesting thought none the less….


Exposure to Art as Entertainment

I’ve posted a few times about concepts to introduce creative activities to a wider audience (check out the “Art theme night” tag for other examples). I’m not quite sure about the concept of combining restaurant dining and painting. The main upside to the restaurant seems to be increased drink sales. Mixing drinking with paint and inexperienced painters is just asking for someone to get their clothes ruined (I wonder who would be liable in such a case).

Having said that, I still think there is a germ of a good business idea in here. Having an audience watch some artists create pieces that are in line with a theme/concept paired with matching music would seem less problematic but is it entertaining enough?


Blender 2.7

Blender has released a new version; 2.70. Just like the application itself, most of the enhancements to blender aren’t of interest to me since my focus is on 3D modeling and not animation or game design.

What did pique my interest is the revamp of its user interface. As luck has it, I’ve barely gotten started with my learning curve. So, I don’t have a lot invested in the old UI.

The revamped user interface now comes with a tabbed toolbar, allowing users to organize tools into categories, while support for editing multiple buttons at once has also been added. The Transform tools also gain a mode for entering expressions and units. Other changes were done to improve lists, header menus, tooltips, buttons, menus and more.

Improvements to the modeling include:

The Laplacian Deform modifier was added to pose a mesh while preserving geometric details of the surface, and a new wireframe modifier allows you transform your mesh into a wireframe representation. The boolean modifier now supports ngons, and there are improvements to the bevel, screw and triangulate modifiers. The bevel tool now offers more control over the bevel profile and results, and the knife tool was improved as well.

At this point in my learning, the majority of the above went over my head. I was thinking of making a snarky remark about finally supporting ngons (because I haven’t a clue what they are). Turns out that an ngon is a polygon with more than four sides. The thought of applying boolean logic to a polygon underscores, for me, how much I have yet to learn.

I’m not sure if the 64-bit version is a new offering or not but I’m off to download it. If any reader is aware of a good tutorial for the new UI features, please share it in the comments… thanks.


64-bit download:

Adoption of 3D Printing

Today’s 3D printing news is dominated by HP’s announcement that when they start producing 3D printers, theirs will be ever so much better (in other words: please don’t buy from our competitors until we have a chance to catch up):

Hewlett-Packard claims to have solved the two biggest problems with today’s 3D printers and will make its first big technology announcement in that area in June, CEO Meg Whitman said Wednesday.

3D printing has a number of issues, especially as they apply to the home/general market. Given the vast research and marketing resource of HP, what do they think are the top two problems with 3D printers:

There’s a lot of “buzz and hype” around 3D printing, but the systems available now have two big challenges, Whitman said at HP’s shareholder meeting. One is that they’re deathly slow. “It’s like watching ice melt,” she said.

The other, according to Whitman, is that the quality isn’t as good as it should be. “The surface of the substrate is not perfect,” she said.

As is always true, the ranking of “problems” is relative to one’s priorities. Since HP is clearly after wider adoption, I think their plan to differentiate themselves is taking the right tack. However, for early adopters I don’t think a lack of speed is a killer issue. Certainly everyone would enjoy a faster output but I think a more reliable, less glitchy printer (i.e. less shrinkage, fewer print errors due to material/printer) would be a higher priority.

I totally agree with HP on the importance of higher quality output. For lower-end printers to be considered “affordable,” they need to be considerably more accurate than what you could get 3D printing with a hot glue gun. I think equally important, for home adoption of 3D printing, would be the improved water resistance and food safety of the materials available for home use.

Speaking of improved materials, another news item I saw was about a new company called MadeSolid; who is focusing on improving 3D printer filament stock. One of their offerings is a material they call PET+. The advantages they claim to offer plastic extrusion printers is impressive:

It’s more flexible than PLA or ABS.
There’s very, very little shrinkage as the material prints. (Amongst other things, shrinkage makes it harder to keep the base of your 3D object from warping off of the build plate — once that happens, your entire print is generally completely wrecked.)
It’s recyclable
It’s heat resistant. You probably don’t want to expose it to flames on the regular (don’t make an oven mitt out of it) — but unlike ABS, it won’t immediately burst into flames, and unlike PLA, it won’t melt in a hot car.
It’s hydrophobic. Some materials (ABS, Nylon) need to be in air-tight containers when stored for long periods of time to avoid absorbing airborne water that’ll cause printer jams; PET+ doesn’t.
It’ll work with or without a heated build plate

Faster printers (more than one print head would be an obvious way to attack problem) and improved materials, should accelerate the adoption rate of 3D printers with the home/hobby market. Printing companies, like HP, love to keep a tight lock on the supplies utilized by their printers. Hopefully material companies, like MadeSolid, will help keep printer manufactures a bit more honest in their filament material offerings and pricing.


(includes video from MadeSolid):

MakeSolid website:

Conversations in Stone

I discovered Kevin Donegan via an announcement promoting his a new show. I think what caught my eye was the name of the exhibit. The show is named after the title of one of his pieces.

Often a lot of thought goes into the naming of a work. I know for me, that one of the hopes I have is that the name I assign will be thought-provoking; along with reflecting the spirit of the piece. Mr.Donegan’s solo exhibition is called “Lock is Key and Other Conversations”. Not sure why but the show name got my mind wandering and I found my imagination’s juices getting started. So, of course, I had to check out some of Mr. Donegan’s work.

I’m not sure how it got started but these days every artist has to write an Artist Statement. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can write mine. How does one sum up your personal take on art without sounding hokey or pretentious? I thought the last half of the artist statement that Mr. Donegan wrote, to be well said:

I have a deep connection to stone.  It speaks to me both brazenly and intimately through form, sound, smell, and feel.  I value it for its integrity and character and consider every sculpture a collaboration.  The classification of stone as inanimate (or lifeless) seems to me unfair, if not a complete fallacy.  I believe it is alive.

Here some other examples of Mr. Donegan’s work in stone:


Kevin Donegan’s web site:

Laywood Filament for 3D Printing

Laywood as a filament made from 40% recycled wood that is combined with polymer binders allowing it to be melted and extruded.

Parts printed with Laywood have about the same properties as parts printed with PLA filament. One interesting feature of this material is the ability to add ‘tree rings,’ or a subtle gradation in color from a rich brown to a very nice beige. The color can be changed on the fly by setting the temperature of your printer’s hot end to 180° C for a light color, and 230° C for a darker color.

Right now this filament is a bit expensive; $20 USD per half kilogram. So, you’re not likely to want to print any 3D furniture with this material.

Source [with video]:

The Most Expensive Items On Etsy

If you aren’t familiar with the site BuzzFeed, they have taken link-baiting posting of lists and quizzes to whole new heights. If you are interested in art, you might be curious about their list of the most expensive items on Etsy.

I found the $35,460 Scorpion statue (pictured above) to be the item I’d be most inclined to purchase. Assuming I had a spare $35K.


3D Printing Garden Designs

The Strand Gallery, in London, is holding an exhibition of 3D printed garden designs. You should check out the amount of detail that 3D printing can provide in reproducing the trees.

I used to have a friend that built miniature landscapes for military simulators (back in the pre-digital days), that were impressive and I assume quite expensive. The 3D printed garden models look to have even more detail and I’m guessing can be created for less money than the old school handcrafted models.

Check out the source item, as it was able to embed the Telegraph video promo of the show; which I was unable to get to work.


Sculpture That Focuses on the Negative — Space

Incorporating the surface a sculpture is mounted on, into the composition of the work itself is hardly original. Surely you’ve seen examples of half a car, or other objects, mounted on the outside wall of a building.

The blog Everything With a Twist caught my eye with a post that included a few photos of the work of Matteo Pugliese. I checked out Mr. Pugliese’s web site and found he has produced a sculpture series called “Extra Moenia”; in which his work is seen to be struggling to be released, or bound by, the wall it is mounted on.

I wouldn’t describe Mr. Pugliese’s work as playful but it is fun, and striking to the eye, to imagine the continuation of his work into the wall.


Matteo Pugliese’s web site:

Stonemasonry and the Craft Versus Art Debate

I’m not a fan of the Huffington Post but they post on such a wide range of topics, invariably I end up reading some of their work. Lately, I have seen a few news items about Thea Alvin and the stone sculpture-landscape she is installing at Duke. You have got to give the Huff some credit, they are the ones that made the editorial decision to focus their reporting of this event on the tension between the craft of stonemasonry and the art of sculpture.

The item has a succinct quote from Hellen Diaz and Mike de Palma, of New Castle Stoneworks:

“Stonemasonry is one of the earliest crafts in civilization’s history. … Stone installation is an intricate art; the mental aptitude it requires to endure a project for two or three years and turn simple stone into a beautiful and truly unique piece of art is enormous.”

Mr. Chameides’ post starts off with some links on stonemasonry and the craft vs. art debate. I’d like to highlight a couple of quotes from the related material he points to.

From the ART TIMES, Sept/ Oct 2009; By Donald Windsor:

Art is craft that leaps into a metaphor. True art evokes meanings and emotions far beyond what the viewers observe. Craft remains the underlying basis of art, but no matter how well done, is merely what it looks like.

From the Tate blog, 13 October 2011; By Kirstie Beaven:

Perhaps intention makes the distinction. If a maker intends to express something perhaps that makes it art.

However, I asked a few makers at a contemporary craft fair last week, and they often felt that it was the material they worked with that made it craft – textiles, ceramics, glass seem to fall into the craft category, never mind if their intention as maker might be an artistic one.

Perhaps it’s how a maker learnt their skill. As an apprentice coming through a process of learning a skill, hand to hand, as it were? That’s craft. As a fully formed genius honing an expressive talent? That’s art.

Perhaps it’s use. Something wearable or useable – jewellery or furniture for example – seems to fit neatly under the craft label, while something that has no clear practical purpose might be called art. However, this doesn’t take into account the decorative crafts, nor the artists who produce practical items.

As for Mrs. Alvin – from what I’ve seen her specialty is dry-laid stone arches. Mr. Chameides describes her work this way:

This extraordinary woman uses her bare hands and a whole lot of muscle and creative energy to build amazing rock structures that curl and twist, undulate in ways that delight and amaze and challenge.

Here’s Mrs. Alvin’s take on the art in stonemasonry:

But to Alvin, respecting the craft alone “does not make art.” To make art as a stonemason, she says, you must “speak to the stone … see the beauty in the stone.” She clearly sees it as a mystical experience to create a structure that is “perfect in its expression of imperfection.”


Thea Alvin’s web site:

Is the Reported Steve Jobs Sculpture Competition a Hoax?

The Register claims that someone they know inside Apple told them that there never was a sculpture competition. If true, all the sculptors who wondered why they didn’t make the cut to be one of the 10,000 invited to the Apple competition, can now feel less insulted.

Perhaps the reason all those gullible media types fell for the scam (mentioning no names, eh? – Vulture Central’s backroom gremlins) is perhaps due to Apple themselves, whose reticent PR team operates with all the transparency of the NSA. They barely answer calls, let alone confirm or deny stories.

This is the Register reporting so, I’d wait for some confirmation before telling everyone it was a hoax. It is just as likely that their story is having some fun with the Apple PR team….