What is 3D Printing Anyways?

This year, the Art Department welcomed a shiny new asset– the Makerbot: Replicator Mini. It’s a compact-style 3D printer that allows those of us who are not familiar with even the basics of 3D printing, to give it a go. A special thanks to Judie Rinearson for donating the Makerbot, thanks to her this could be the start of something new here at the Art Department.


So, on to the basics.

In short, 3D printing is the creation of 3-dimensional solid objects from digital files. It may sound simple, but trust me, it’s not. The objects are created through additive processes, or, the laying down of successive layers of PLA or filament until the entire object is created.

Some call it a fad, others say 3D printing is here to stay. Senior Sculpture student, Brett Myers, has been the first to take a crack at this new medium. Above, a photo of a few of Brett’s practice and finished pieces are pictured. My personal favorite is his anvil piece, a modern spin on a classic.

A more recent finished piece of Brett’s serves aspects of both function and design. It is a piece in the shape of an arrow that both points to and labels the switch to a light box, (the switch is a bit hidden on the far side of the box). Check out his process and the finished piece below.

Although this model is fairly simple to use for newbies such as myself, a con of this specific model is that the material used in the machine or, filament, is restricted to a certain size- 1.75 mm PLA. While this printer is great for learning the basics and getting the hang of 3D printing, more advanced, (and possibly less compact) models are necessary to move on to the next level. In other words, it comes down to trading size for convenience. Below is a look at the wide variety of colors that the filament comes in, definitely lots of design possibilities here, regardless of size.


A few NPR stories were what initially inspired donor, Judie Rinearson, to give the Makerbot to Guilford.

The first: “Artists In Residence Give High-Tech Projects A Human Touch”

And the second: “Can 3D Printers Reshape the World?”


Here’s what Judie had to say:

“I’d heard the older story about how 3D printers will ‘reshape the world’ several years ago, and that got me fascinated with the technology. But the more recent story (Artists In Residence Give High-Tech Projects A Human Touch) from April 2015 – particularly caught my attention since my son James had moved from being an engineering major at a large university  to a sculpture major at Guilford.  

“The article helped me to understand how closely these two fields are connected  through 3D printers.  The NPR stories triggered my interest in 3D printers, but what really started to get me thinking about the donation was conversations with 2 teachers in my Montclair NJ community.  One taught art at a local school.  She showed us some wind sculptures made by her students using a small 3D printer.  They were wonderful.  The other was an industrial design teacher at Montclair State University.  He shared how his students love working with 3D printers.  

“When my son told me that he didn’t think Guilford had a 3D printer my immediate thought was that we should do something about that.  I then consulted with the industrial design teacher who assured me that one could do a lot with a small ‘beginners’ 3D printer, which would be fine in a college classroom setting.  

“Last but not least, when I reached out to Mark Dixon, my son’s sculpture teacher at Guilford, he was so supportive and enthusiastic, that was all I needed to hear.

“I should add that the whole process was a very satisfying – rather than simply donating dollars, to identify a concrete thing that was needed, and to be able to provide it, just felt good.  

“In terms of what I’d like to see done with it – well that’s really the job of the artists and teachers.  I hope many students will learn how to use a 3D printer.  And I expect that to use it successfully will require not only creativity, but careful planning, design and execution skills.”  

We cannot thank Judie enough for her donation along with her thoughtful responses. I personally cannot wait to see what else comes of the Makerbot. Check back with us soon for more of Brett’s developments!

1 response to What is 3D Printing Anyways?

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