Designer shows the power of digital printing in a new display


Art meets technology, technology meets design, design meets business in a new exhibition that highlights the possibilities of 3D printing. The show is the first American exhibition of the work of experimental Dutch designer and inventor Joris Laarman. The artist works through design, art and engineering to create unusual designs, such as furniture generated by intelligent algorithms and the world’s first fully functional three-dimensional printed steel bridge.

The artist has taken advantage of developments in 3D printing (additive manufacturing), where imaginative and functional three-dimensional solid objects are developed from digital files. Through experiments with algorithms, Laarman created unusual structures. These aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, many serve a practical purpose as well.

Among Laarman’s works is the 3D printable Makerchair. This can be downloaded from the Internet and produced by a 3D printer. This was developed at the Joris Laarman Lab in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The lab collaborates with artisans, scientists and engineers and the possibilities of emerging technologies like CNC systems, 3D printing, robotics and simulation software.

oris Laarman Lab; (from left to right): Diagonal Resin, Maze, Diamond, Puzzle Wood and Diagonal Wood chairs, from the Makerchair series, 2014; Assembled and glued cnc milled resin, walnut, maple; H x W x D (each): 78 × 54 × 65 cm (30 11/16 × 21 1/4 × 25 9/16 in.)

Joris Laarman Laboratory

Laarman’s groundbreaking work, described as “Bone Chair,” is also part of the exhibit. The shape of the chair is derived from a computer algorithm that mimics bone growth. Thanks to the algorithm, more material is generated where strength is needed, while areas exposed to less stress require less material.

According to the artist, the Bone Chair is designed to demonstrate the relationship of the digital age with nature. Nature, according to the artist, “is no longer just a stylistic reference, nature provides the underlying principles for generating form”.

The exhibit also references the MX3D bridge, which is a fully functional walkway that can be printed using stainless steel three-dimensional printing technology. The bridge is being made for a canal in Amsterdam using advanced robotic technology. The bridge will be completed in 2018, according to The Guardian. This revolutionary digital manufacturing concept means that metal can be 3D printed in the air, without the need for a support structure.

Among Laarman’s inventions is also the Dragon Bench. This was 3D printed using the MX3D process developed by Laarman, which requires the use of industrial robots with an advanced welding machine designed to print metal structures in the air. Algorithmically generated shapes appear in gridded, freestanding pieces.

Laarman exhibited at Cooper Hewitt; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Center Pompidou, Paris; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands.


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