3D Printed Art – The Technology of Expression

Credit: Printables

Art is the expression of human creative skill and imagination – there are no boundaries to what art can be, although our perception of art is personal.

You get to determine what art is good and bad, and that’s the beauty of it.

Sculptures and models are one of art’s original forms, with the earliest sculptures dating back to 30,000 BCE. For example, this prehistoric sculpture was found in Blombos Cave in the Republic of South Africa. We can also find sculptures throughout ancient civilisations, be they Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, or Maya.

However, up until now, art has been the exclusive expression of physical effort – moulding, shaping, sculpting, and painting by hand.

Technology is changing this with 3D printing, which produces complex physical sculptures and parts from CAD (computer-aided design) drawings. The result is artwork like you have never seen it before, unbounded by human physical limitations.

What makes 3D printed art special?

3D printed art merges the virtual and physical world by taking drawings in software and turning them into three-dimensional models.

This is comparable to taking the ideas in your head and creating sculptures from clay. Still, the 3D printer can work faster than your hands and achieve geometries and details that are impossible by hand – this unlocks exciting possibilities.

Good CAD, and high-quality 3D printing, is an artform – it takes an artistic eye and technology mastery to produce art worthy of display. Many artists find the learning curve a treat akin to picking up a brush for the first time.

How to get started with 3D printed art

Get a 3D printer

Firstly, you need a 3D printer, and there are no easier or more capable machines out-of-the-box than Ultimaker 3D printers.

Ultimaker S3

The Ultimaker S3 is an exceptional piece of kit for 3D printing art, with a 230 x 190 x 200 mm build area and fantastic OEM support.

In January, Ultimaker released a software update for the S3 (and its big sister, the S5), unlocking 3x faster print speeds when printing solids and 2x faster speeds when using infills, making morning-to-afternoon art very possible.

The detail captured by the Ultimaker S3 – and the accuracy and extensive material catalogue – means you can produce detailed, accurate art reliably, whether it’s a sculpture or multiple parts for a larger model.

Read our Ultimaker S3 guide to find out more.

Learn the basics

Our back-to-basics 3D printing guide covers the core terminology that describes 3D printing as a technology and a process, and our 3D printing preparation guide covers everything you need to know about preparing designs. We also have a guide to slicing software (the software you use to slice CAD drawings).

A 3D printed bust of Dutch DJ Oliver Heldens

To learn the ropes with experts, we offer 3D printer training to anyone – we train hundreds of artists and schools annually.

Get inspired with 3D printed art

You can get free 3D printer files at these websites, including sculptures and models that give you an introduction to different infills.

All3DP also has an excellent list of 3D printed statues to try, with the bust of Julius Caesar being one of our favourite-ever 3D prints!

The great thing about STL files is that most are modifiable, so you can add them to your CAD software and edit them to hone your skills. It’s also worth checking out what other people do – for example, this professor uses 3D printing to teach art at UMass Lowell.

Find out more

Want to speak with an Additive-X Ultimaker specialist? Contact the team at 01765 694 007, email team@additive-x.com, or you can