3-D Printed Self Portrait



In this work I explored how a personal “human” data can be portrayed using tools of communication and fabrication common in science and engineering fields. In this 3-D Printed Self Portrait, I used the emerging technologies of 3-D printing and Computer Aided Design ( CAD) more commonly associated with the fields of engineering and laboratory research to map the relative influence that places I have lived have had on me. I printed three versions which portray myself at five, ten and twenty years of age.

The Questions

3-D printing used to be known primarily as rapid prototyping because its quality and cost limited its usefulness to engineers and scientists making quick models. Once the technology advanced to making sturdy products faster than other similar manufacture methods, its use expanded from the realm of engineering and scientific laboratories prototypes into the manufacturing sphere. Questioning 3-D printing is important contemporarily because if 3-D printing continues its current forecast path of evolution, from manufacturers onto the desktops of individuals, it has the potential to bestow independence from manufacturers onto individuals. Since 3-D printing can now be used with various different materials such a biological tissue and metal it raises significant questions about the nature of materials, about the ownership of intellectual property and about the distribution of physical property. It is important to ask questions like these before the technology becomes commonplace and 3-D printing’s impact is felt significantly.

My choice to 3-D print means that the 3-D model design of my self-portrait can be materialized in any material that can be used by 3-D printers. On one hand I effectively divorced the sculpture from meaning inherent to its material because the material that the “self-portrait” is materialized in does not change the core information of the piece. It is a negation of the narratives and information, the semiotic system, that materials and goods carry with them. One can argue that the material that the work was created is irrelevant to the content, since the information stays constant regardless of the material it is materialized in. On the other hand the choice to 3-D print raise questions like “What components make up materials? What advances would have to be made to make an alloy material? ” that would not come up if this work were cast from a mold. I feel these questions can only really be asked at this moment in time, just during the emerging growth of 3-D printing.