DML Blog

3D Printing in the DML

posted on 27 Feb 2014 17:50 by Laura Kelly-Bowditch


Last semester, I proposed a project in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum, where I intern, to explore using laser scanning and 3D printing to expedite artifact storage and shipping containers. I have been researching the problems that have arisen, including concerns from the Brooklyn Museum conservator about exposing objects to lasers and material concerns (plastics, used in the majority of consumer 3D printers, do not have a good track record for longevity or archival properties!) as well as talking to other museum professionals who have been exploring similar projects. The Yale University Art Gallery has been experimenting with using a CNC machine to cut foam to shape and is exploring creating printable polyethylene, an archival material currently used for storage mounts and packing.

I have been researching whether it is possible to scan an object that can subsequently be used to create a printable negative using CAD software. Ideally, this less invasive process than traditional molding will result in a custom mount or shipping container that is more streamlined than current practices of hand measuring, cutting, and re-cutting materials. Given the available materials we currently have to print with in the DML (ABS Plastic) the resulting custom-molded mount would need to be covered with an archival material, such as Tyvek, and be a material that would not be damaged by a hard mount. Additionally, the workflow as it stands is much slower than traditional techniques and consumer technology has a long way to go before scanning and printing a mount is easier or better than what is done now.

As Andrew touched on in his last post, Ariel Rosenblum, a first year MA student, has just finished installing her exhibit in Northampton, MA featuring two art pieces she scanned and printed with our Makerbot Replicator.


Working through an entire project, from scanning to tweaking the model to printing was a great practical opportunity to experience this workflow with a real project, instead of a theoretical application. It has been a great experience for all of us in the DML. The more we print, the better a handle we get on the quirks of the equipment and software. For example, we are experimenting with ways to keep models from warping off the build platform. As it turns out, we should have been replacing the protective tape every few builds. Whoops! If new tape doesn’t fix the warping problem, we have a few tricks up our sleeves now, including hairspray and sanding the tape.

Ariel’s sculpture, featuring a rock wrapped in felted wool, presented particular challenges for our equipment and software. Ariel scanned her piece twice—once to capture the sides and a second time to read the top and bottom.


Melding these two scans required virtual pins to be placed on the same point in each scan, so the software can then match up and fuse the two data sets. When scanned, the irregular texture of the materials was rendered as holey. The resulting print represents a fascinating visual interpretation of the original artwork, with the internal supports the MakerWare software inserted to support the structure during printing highly visible and adding to the aesthetic impact of the object. Ariel printed several versions of her first piece, the largest of which took a total of 17 hours.


Kimon has been working his way through the components of a set of headphones. Once printed, these components can be assembled with some wire and electronics equipment to create a useable product! Come by and check it out, we try to send emails when we’re printing. We also welcome project ideas and would love to work with you if you have any ideas for ways to use our scanner and printer.

Comments: 1

Things are heating up this semester in the DML

posted on 12 Feb 2014 19:02 by Andrew Gardner

scanning.jpg photo%202.JPG
Scanning the object and the object onscreen.

We’ve made it to a new semester! While it’s blustery and cold outside these days here in New York, things are quite literally heating up inside because… we’re 3D printing!* Laura, my fellow DML assistant, has been hard at work on research about 3D printing. Her work perfectly coincides with a new 3D printing project we’ve been doing with MA student and artist Ariel Rosenblum, who is working on mounting an exhibition using stereoscopy as means of deconstructing perception of form through a variety of media, including technological development and the advent of 3D printing.

She printed a really cool rock wrapped in wool, which took a few tries, but we think it turned out ok? It’s really pretty exciting. Her show “Behold Binocular” opens Friday, February 14, 2014 at Historic Northampton in Massachusetts.

We’ve also been busy polishing off the odds and ends from last semester. Professor Catherine Whalen had two amazing digital student projects. Over the last few years, she and her students did an incredible amount of work on the BGC Oral History project (in collaboration with Professor Kimon Keramidas, Digital Media Lab Director, Laura and myself), which I discussed last fall in my recap of the DML Salon. The project was a smashing success and has been well-received both internally and externally. It’s an invaluable resource for scholars doing research on contemporary craft.

In addition to that project, which came together last fall, Prof. Whalen’s Colonial Revival class put together an incredible project composed of research surrounding a defining stylistic moment in American material culture. The project was a complicated coding process (Prof. Keramidas spent way more time on working on it than anyone, though the painstaking footnoting process was my work!), but it turned out to be a really interesting way of combining research into one cohesive format. It was also a really interesting exercise in collaborating with colleagues, from a research and from a technological perspective.

What to look forward to in the coming months:

  • You’re invited to the Spring 2014 Digital Media Lab Salon which takes place tomorrow, Thursday, February 13, 2014, showcasing the best digital projects from the last semester (there are many!)
  • Students from Professor David Jaffee’s 19th-Century New York focus gallery class, Laura and I among them, will be hard at work in the DML putting together proposals for the digital interactive components of the exhibition, which opens next fall.
  • Students from Dean Miller’s focus gallery class will be working on Prezis and movies that explore the work and methodology of Aby Warburg.
  • And plenty more 3D printing to come… Including 3D printed headphones!

Stay tuned! Laura’s going to update us on current and future 3D printing technology…

*Seriously, one thing I’ve noticed about 3D printing: it gets really warm in here! A fully different climate region in the Digital Media Lab as compared to every other room in the building. But I digress…

Also, behold Ariel's digital rendering of the 3D printed scans in one image:


Please leave the comments module below in tact, but feel free to delete this text and and start your page now.

Comments: 1

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License