As part of my work as a Media Lab intern, I created an educational booklet about fundamental 3D-printing processes, 3D Printing Booklet for Beginners, which will help the Met's staff and visitors to better understand how to create and print 3D models with 123D Catch and other open-source software. The booklet was designed to build on the Media Lab's practice of helping audiences use 3D models of objects in the Met's collection for their own creative purposes. There are three main chapters in my booklet—Scanning, Modeling, and Printing—as well as some examples of how to create a new art project inspired by reproduction art, an idea I got from John Berger's Ways of Seeing.
Since I came to the Media Lab with a 2D background in communication design, I wanted to explore more about 3D printing while at the Museum. The Met's Media Lab has 3D printers that I used to learn the processes, and after doing so, I realized the important relationship between 3D printing and Berger's concept of reproduction art. There were several quotes from Ways of Seeing that inspired me to see a connection between 3D printing and art, including:
"Reproduction should make it easier to connect our experience of art directly with other experience."
"This painting is possible to see in the gallery, but now this painting is reproduced and can be seen in different places at the same time."
"Exploring reproduction art in order to see art in different ways . . ."
Tools and Resources
I chose to focus on the galleries of the Departments of Asian Art and Greek and Roman Art since there are a wide variety of objects available for scanning. There were two main software tools that I used for this project: 123D CATCH—a software that allows users to turn a series of 2D photographs into a 3D digital model; and TINKERCAD—a software used for fixing models, combining them with other models, and preparing the models for printing.
3D Printing Booklet for Beginners was designed to make 3D scanning, modeling, and printing accessible to people of all ages, regardless of technical background. It therefore makes extensive use of simple graphics and images to explain the multistep process.
Printing Objects and Using Virtual Reality
While doing research for the booklet, I printed reproductions and new works based on objects in the Museum's collection.
I also collaborated with fellow Media Lab Intern Laura Chen to push past the limits of 3D printing technology by exporting 3D models into software for the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset.
The Met's Media Lab is a playground of technology which allowed me to experiment with both art and technology. I have learned a great deal, and feel like I've achieved the goals I set for myself before beginning my internship. I received incredibly useful feedback from my target audience at the Media Lab Intern Expo, who were motivated to dive deeper into 3D printing after my presentation, despite initially thinking it was a very difficult concept. Moving forward, I will continue to improve upon my project in the hopes of creating a one-day workshop at the Met for people who are interested in learning basic 3D printing, and what this new technology can do to enhance their exploration of art in the Museum.
3D Printing Booklet for Beginners (PDF)