May 18, 2010

SculptCAD RAPID Artists use Geomagic Studio to Explore New Creative and Commercial Vistas

ANAHEIM, Calif - It’s safe to say that not all of the artists participating in the exhibition opening today at the SME RAPID 2010 show in Anaheim, Calif., are comfortable sitting at the nexus between art and technology, but most have become enlightened about the vast possibilities of using 3D digital tools for creative work.

The SculptCAD Rapid Artists exhibition at RAPID 2010 is the result of an experiment led by Nancy Hairston, president of SculptCAD, a provider of sculptural CAD design and reverse engineering services. The fact that the exhibition is part of an event dedicated to manufacturing advances shows the increasing intersection between technologies used for art and industrial production.

Hairston put 3D scanning and processing tools into the hands of artists and set them off for six months to create their own works. Members of the SculptCAD artists group exhibiting at the RAPID show include sculptors, painters and installation artists who work in a range of materials, from marble to rubber, plastic and wood.

Transforming the physical into digital

Sitting at the center of the creative process for the artists was Geomagic Studio reverse engineering software. Geomagic Studio automates the formerly tedious procedure of transforming 3D scan data from a physical object into a high-resolution digital model that can be rapidly prototyped and manufactured. The same attributes that make Geomagic Studio an indispensible tool in creating customized designs for companies such as Timberland, Fisher-Price and Invisalign can be applied widely to art, according to Hairston.

“We chose Geomagic Studio for the project because it is intuitive and easy to learn,” Hairston says. “It’s ideal for modeling the freeform physical shapes that artists like to create and use in a wide variety of ways.”

David Van Ness used a Konica Minolta Range7 3D scanner to capture his sculpture of an elk and create a new piece modeled in Geomagic Studio. Once the 3D model was created in Geomagic, it was sent to a stereo lithography (SLA) system, which uses a vat of liquid photopolymer resin and a laser to build a physical object one layer at a time.

“I’d heard of Geomagic, but never used it before,” says Van Ness. “It was very quick and easy for registering scans, fixing holes, and going from a point cloud to an accurate 3D polygon model for rapid manufacturing on the SLA system.”

Shrinking time and creating multiples

Both Hairston and Van Ness think that 3D scanning technologies driven by Geomagic software have great potential for artists from both creative and commercial standpoints.

“It really expands what artists can do creatively with an original piece or sections of it,” says Hairston. “Almost infinite variations can be derived once that art exists in a 3D digital space. You can take pieces from the past, iterate on them, and create something improved or different.”

From a business standpoint, 3D scanning and processing can “shrink time” according to Hairston. “Instead of being able to do three commissions a year, an artist might be able to do five, which can make a huge income difference.”

In his presentation at the RAPID 2010 conference, titled “What Digital Means to the Artist,” Van Ness will explore the effects of 3D technologies on the relationship between art and commerce.

“I think each artist will approach it differently,” he says, “but the ability to work with recursive models and create multiples in great detail and speed will be an excellent boon to the industry. What is really nice is that the pieces are reproducible and ‘backed up’ in case of damage or if you need them to be across the globe in a matter of seconds.”