By Brian Anderson, Instructor – Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Designed Objects program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with support from Printrbot, Taulman 3D, and Simplify 3D created the first classroom in the world equipped with a class-count of individual 3D printers.

Each year, SAIC’s incoming Master of Design students spends six weeks in a pre-term boot  camp exploring the how and when of rough and refined design visualization and prototyping.  Through daily and weekly projects the class advances digital design skills and gains comprehensive exposure to the fabrication and production capabilities across the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Using these capabilities and tools students in the course explore approaches to visualization and construction ranging from simple to sophisticated and exhibit drawings and objects developed through integrated approaches. This summer, the Designed Objects boot camp culminated in a week-long 3D printing intensive, a low- to medium-fidelity laboratory that explored the idea of ubiquitous 3D printing.

Because of the relatively high price of equipping classrooms with ten or more semi-pro 3D printers, courses focusing on digital output often can only afford to provide students access to one or two machines. Responding to this impasse, Brian Anderson, the boot camp course instructor, conceived of a collaboration intended to marry accessible, low-cost 3D printing (the Printrbot Simple is the world’s least expensive 3D printer) with a print material that is readily optimized in terms of print volume and strength (it takes less nylon to achieve high structural integrity and Taulman 3D is actively involved in developing this and other aspects of print output) and lastly a simplified and robust software interface and workflow (Simplify 3D’s Creator software).

SAIC received the first Simple machines shipped from Printrbot. The Simple is inexpensive enough ($300) to consider consumable or semi-consumable or as having a limited lifetime that can be extended by re-purposing components or rebuilding the machine. A course budget that could cover one semi-pro machine comes close to outfitting an entire class with printers. Taulman 3D helped the course acquire 645 and 618 nylon filament and an advanced quantity of T-glase. Simplify 3D pre-released a version of their Creator software modified to communicate with Printrbot boards.

The Designed Objects program considered the 1:1 ratio of printer to student a big thing and an experiment worth running. Simply demonstrating the possibility was a win. In the classroom there was zero distance separating the CAD environment with 3D output for all students. And what was once black-box technology for most grew into an intimate relationship (of understanding, tending, tuning, and maintaining) with machine and material. The class named the machines, and by the end of the course each bot had a recognizable personality.

Accepting students were likely to be at different points in learning and project work in a information-noisy, trial-and-error learning environment, curricular material was delivered through video tutorials. The classroom was run as a minimally-structured collaborative studio in which the fleet of machines was nimble, responsive, active, demanding, and rewarding. Across an intensive period of use (not all students printed at the same time) momentarily redundant machines were cycled through the classroom when there was more than a need for re-calibration.

The Simple offers a relatively small print envelope in a market that trends toward a cubic foot. This seeming drawback was beneficial in the classroom when considering time to print (the time it would take to print larger print envelopes is at odds with the typical class or studio period), and the imperative of iteration seems to demand smaller, faster, incremental prints that are strong and can then be subjected to basic subtractive processes. Larger volume projects immediately necessitate the development of strategies for modularity.

Alongside object output, the class produced short videos. The Immediate Objects series assumes future ubiquitous printing. The short videos ask not what can be printed now, but muse about a not-so-future world where 3D printers are as familiar as domestic objects like toasters or sewing machines? What if we printed clothing at home what we wore on the town? What if the g-code that defines the construction of printed objects evolved and mutated like DNA? What if future intelligent printers anticipated our needs?

 

[one-half-first][/one-half-first][one-half][/one-half]

 

Final Videos

 

 

 

 

 

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to over 3,200 students from across the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC’s educational philosophy is built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields.

At the SAIC’s Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO), we encourage and practice a vibrant engagement with design at all scales, from body to environment.

Different concepts of design are entering public discourse and design practices and are constantly evolving in our fast-changing world. Designers need to be comfortable with uncertainty and complexity, often having to locate their creative imagination outside disciplinary boundaries. They become agents of design, entrepreneurs developing hubs of activity linking art, design, science, business, and culture.

The AIADO department responds with significant alternatives in education. Our faculty believes that future designers need to be thinking designers, practitioners willing to explore unknown territory and engage problems not yet defined.

About SAIC

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to over 3,200 students from across the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC’s educational philosophy is built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields.

All Text, Images and Videos courtesy of Brian Anderson