What happens when a huge number of people get together to create a 3D printed art installation?
PrintToPeer, the company behind the idea, doesn't know yet. And that's the point.
"Linked," as the work in progress is called, will be built with 3D printed medallions that have been customized and sent in by people all over the world.
Artist Jeff de Boer, who helped design the medallions' basic shape, will then assemble the medallions into what PrintToPeer calls the world's first collaborative 3D printed sculpture.
PrintToPeer has more than a passing interest in remotely operated 3D printing projects. The company is developing an app that would help people manage their 3D printers from their desktops or mobile phones. Participants in "Linked" will get free access to the app's private beta.
Anyone can participate in "Linked" by creating a medallion, so long as they have access to a 3D printer — which isn't difficult these days, even if you don't own one. You can send 3D printing jobs to companies like Shapeways or UPS.
At PrintToPeer's website, you can create a simple customized medallion by uploading a picture. The website automatically reproduces that image in relief on the model's surface, akin to a carving. Then you can download the digital file, bring it to a 3D printing company to print, then mail the finished product to PrintToPeer's offices.
Advanced users can go further by downloading the basic medallion shape to their own computers and then modifying it by hand using computer-aided design (CAD) software, such as Autodesk 123D or Blender.
The medallions' generic shape means there are many ways to assemble the project, much as there are many ways to put together Legos or building blocks. Once all the medallions are in, de Boer will link them together to form an art installation that will be displayed at the Beakerhead festival of art and engineering, held in Alberta, Canada, on Sept. 14.
At future 3D printing events, such as Maker Faire in New York City on Sept. 21-22, local artists will be invited to find creative new ways to reassemble the pieces of "Linked."
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