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3D Printing Is Changing Art

Whether to create models or finished works, the use of 3D printing in fine-art sculpture is still relatively rare. But those who employ it expect it grow, as the process becomes cheaper, more refined and simply better known. Some advocates of 3D printing extol its ability to let anyone create sculptures, for good or ill. And artists in commercial design see a particularly promising future for it.

Dreyfuss, a onetime architecture student who dropped out of Harvard’s graduate school in the mid-1970s to become a sculptor’s assistant, heard about 3D printing from his architecture contacts. “It seemed perfect for what I do,” says Dreyfuss, whose work relies on elegant, streamlined forms rather than, say, found objects or industrial-style brutalism.

He has used a computer with Rhinoceros 3D software and his printer to make mold spare parts‘’ that are ultimately cast in fiberglass, bronze and aluminum. “Once you cut the shape,” he notes, “you can make [the sculpture] out of any material you want.”

It takes Dreyfuss’s printer about seven hours to construct a piece the printer’s maximum size: 12-inches high by 8-inches wide. If he needs something bigger, he prints multiple pieces and glues them together.

The ability to adjust size is important to Dreyfuss. His studio contains two life-sized fiberglass models of lions, designed to flank the entrance to a condominium building. The sculptor loaned the models to his clients so they could contemplate their form before the final piece was forged in bronze. The condo developers ultimately decided the beasts should be 20 percent larger, which was easily arranged.

The current exhibition at Artisphere in Virginia, “The Next Wave: Industrial Design Innovation in the 21st Century,” showcases a lamp whose honeycombed plastic form popped from a 3D printer. It was made by a Belgian firm with an apt name, Materialize.

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