Last week,  I attended  the Materialise 3D Printing conference at RMIT with MCAM and AMAERO staff. I also went to the Parallels – Journeys into Contemporary Making conference at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was great to hear what’s new in 3D Printing and different views on the changing world of craft and design.

There have been a lot of talks about the wonderful new manufacturing method, namely 3D printing. But it seemed there was an assumption that everyone can use 3D modelling software programs to create models for 3D printing; and another assumption is that any form or structure can be printed with a 3D printer. In fact, there are so much to learn before one can fully use this wonder technology.

During the Materialise conference I learned that the current trend in 3D printing techniques is lattice structures, which involve repetitive patterns of cell shapes or types.  It’s said that apart from being unique to 3D printing, lattice structures are much more flexible, versatile and much lighter but can be stiffer than solid structures.  Without a doubt, soon there will be new design tools available for us to create lattice structures for 3D printing.

If we are willing to use complex and unfamiliar tools and not to restrict ourselves to the usual applications of the technology, we will discover not just possibilities and limitations of the new tools but also the conditions and consciousness of our changing world.

For now, I am willing to train with the software used at MCAM/AMAERO that is MAGICS. This software is used to check, fix or alter 3D models before they are printed. Timely, AMAERO has  just acquired a new copy of MAGICS which allows me to manually create tree supports for my 3D models. I AM STIIL LEARNING IT!

(I AM STILL LEARNING, or ANCORA IMPARO, is in fact Monash University’s motto! )

While creating tree supports in MAGICS is very slow and laborious, this task can be done with just a few clicks in FORM1 3D printer’ s Preform software. However, since the tree supports are added manually in MAGICS, we can design the shape and position of the ‘trees’. Preform’s tree supports are simple straight columns with short branches, and are generated by the software based on the angle and position of the overhangs (which we can’t really change).



Below is a photo of my new 3D prints – Both are 7cm high; the print on the left was printed with a MakerBot printer without supports. The grey object on the right was built with a FORM1 printer; tree supports were needed to support the slightly tilted model(to ensure that the base of the print will be clean and perfect when removed from the resin tray).



I will print a few more versions with different materials (plaster, metal and different resins) next week.

There are so much to learn.


Today I reprint one of my old 3D models using liquid resin and tree supports.  The print is quite heavy due to the additional weight of the supports. I will create the 3D trees myself  and reprint this ‘waratah’ model to see how much material I can save.




I am still waiting to have this model printed with plaster powder and colours.


Having used digital tools and techniques in many projects, I realise that digital technology encourages interest in what is possible, what is new, which sometimes leads to ideology that is speculative and variable than factual. After our initial experiment with printing small intricate objects at MCAM (Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing) last November, I return to work with AMAERO & MCAM scientists to further experiment with possibilities and limitations of additive manufacturing technology.

The focus of my project is not purely about finding solutions for the issues in 3D technology but to explore unfamiliar tools and techniques to shape my material and practice.

I am particularly interested in the idea of ‘tree supports’ in 3D printing but  I will spend the first few weeks of my residency at AMAERO designing a few small models for AMAERO and MCAM to learn more about printing with metal powder. As with my previous projects, my intention is not about imitating things as they are but to explore the potential for ‘ready-made’ imagery of our time. The tiny plant-like support structures present many possibilities for me to create sculptural forms that are unmistakably influenced by the distinctive features of 3D printing. Of course, my collaborative partners and I will also look at issues of material wastage and constraints when creating models for printability.