Manufacturing as Art

We've written a bit about additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing -- what effects it could have on the manufacturing space and how it could be transformed and advanced by increased use of automation. I'm sure we'll see more from this realm of manufacturing and automation in the coming years.

So it doesn't surprise me that the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is interested in additive manufacturing as well. It just surprises me a little that they're interested in additive manufacturing works of art.

But a press release came across our desks this week announcing that SME is seeking submissions for artwork created using additive manufacturing, 3D printing or 3D imaging technologies. They want to display them at the Contemporary Art Gallery during the RAPID Additive Manufacturing Solutions Conference and Exposition this summer in Pittsburgh.

“RAPID presents artists familiar with design software and additive manufacturing processes the opportunity to display their work to an appreciative audience, while providing traditional artists the opportunity to explore this new medium and participate in the 3D printing industry,” said SME business development manager Gary Mikola.

Additive manufacturing/3D printing enables the creation of artwork with complex patterns and geometrical shapes. Here’s how it works: Artists create digital models of their work with CAD software. The CAD files are converted into a 3D printable STL file format. The STL file is transferred to a 3D printing/additive manufacturing machine. The machine outputs different materials onto a platform, building cross-sections one layer at a time. Each layer corresponds with the virtual cross-section of the artist’s CAD file to create the final work of art.

Deadline to submit entries for the Contemporary Art Gallery is March 4. Artists must submit renderings in JPG file format along with their credentials and a list of the process used to create the artwork.

Submissions will be juried by event advisors for selection and display. Preference will be given to artists that have works created using additive technologies; however, artists are encouraged to submit work in CAD/STL files because a limited number of entries will be printed by professional additive manufacturing service providers. All artwork must be durable and stable for display on a 2 ft square surface pedestal when in final form.

Artwork will be prominently displayed on the RAPID show floor. Artists will receive publicity and promotion in the form of press releases, listings in the printed show directory, online visibility in the RAPID Contemporary Art eGallery and social media marketing.

More than 50 works of art have been displayed since SME introduced the Contemporary Art Gallery in 2010.

Aaron Hand is the managing editor for Control Design and for Industrial Networking. Email him at or check out his Google+ profile.