3D printing - threat or opportunity for artists and collectors?

tl; dr

With the topics of photogrammetry and 3D printing, completely new opportunities arise for the 3D artist for marketing and sales, but also for their own artistic development.

The supposed disadvantages and risks of digitizing images, music and videos have long been discussed and refuted by real developments.

Anyone who accepts and develops these new possibilities now has an exciting path ahead of them.

What exactly is 3D printing?

Like many other technologies that we are discussing here on culture chocolate, 3D printing has also made enormous strides forward in just a few years.

3D printers are easier to use for the same price and always deliver better results.

In addition, the range of materials with which one can print - so to speak, "the ink" - is getting bigger and bigger.

One also speaks of “additive manufacturing”, since, unlike planing, machining, drilling, etc., no material is removed but is usually built up layer by layer to create the workpiece.

Even if the printing of 3D objects is far from being trivial, it is already clear that 3D printers are on their way into the mainstream. And it doesn't matter whether this path is "long" for 5 years or 10 years.

The topic of 3D printing is as diverse as you can imagine:

All sorts of things are already being printed today: from gadgets and spare parts for vintage cars to rocket parts - and also art.

This is what a 3D printer looks like

This is what the printer looks like in action:

Once a digital 3D model is available in a suitable form, it can be replicated as often as required using a 3D printer.

We have outlined how this 3D data can be created here: https://kulturschokolade.org/bildhauerei-digitalisiert-ein-bericht/

The process of photogrammetry to create these 3D data today still requires a lot of know-how and experience - but it is to be expected that this will change in a few years.

Then modern smartphones will probably be able to derive the geometry of objects from a few photos or a video and thus create the 3D models that are necessary for 3D printing.

What does that mean for the sculptor?

It is said that - even today with professional help, in a few years using any smartphone - digital twins of the sculptures that are accurate to the millimeter can be created, which can be replicated using a 3D printer.

Such a 3D model would look like this:

Is that a danger?

At first glance, it can sound ominous:

Someone takes a few photos of my sculpture and then prints a copy of the work of art and is a potential buyer.

But, is this really the truth?

First of all, you have to say that the sculptor is in good company here: The same has been true for photographers and painters for a long time:

I can photograph a painting, maybe digitally post-process it, upscale it and print it out in high quality - a digital copy is already hanging on my wall.

Other artists have been living with this situation for years.

So there is no need for the sculptor to get nervous:

Just as 2D printers didn't harm the painting, 3D printers won't harm the sculptor either.

We also know from similar digital developments from the past (music, films, games, etc.) that people who prefer a “pirated copy” to the original in most cases do so because they cannot (yet) afford the original.

So these people do not cannibalize the sales proceeds.

The opposite is the case: pirated copies also ensure visibility - even for people who would rather buy an original than own a pirated copy.

It is even known from games and other software that people who originally owned a pirated copy of software bought the original as soon as they were financially able to do so.

So - apart from perhaps an emotional reservation about the subject - the artist does not seem to be threatened substantially here.

But what will the collector say?

Now one can still ask whether the collector will not fear inflation of the original if there are 3D models of the work of art on the Internet that can be printed out?

The above also applies here:

An original remains an original:

A hand-signed print loses none of its value and its uniqueness because someone puts it on the photocopier and hangs this copy in the living room.

So the all-clear also applies to collectors:

These new technologies do not threaten his passion for collecting and the value of the objects collected.

All good - no need to worry

Is the whole thing then maybe even an opportunity?

Now let's look at the exciting part:

The new possibilities that arise for the sculptor through digital twins of his works and 3D printing.

Social media and online marketing

In contrast to painters, the sculptor was only able to present his works online in an unsatisfactory manner using photos.

A digital twin as shown above allows a complete presentation in all dimensions.

And just as there is YouTube for videos and Instagram for photos, there are also social channels and distribution options for 3D content.

The new 3D content also opens up new marketing channels.

online sales

Solid figures are now known from eCommerce, which prove that products that are shown in the form of 3D models in the online shop sell significantly better than products that are only presented using photos.

So here, too, the sculptor might want to take the plunge into direct sales online with these new possibilities.

Documentation and archive

After a sale, the artist only parted with some objects with a heavy heart. A lot has been produced and sold over the years and the artist loses sight of the works he has sold.

The digital twins, possibly in combination with a 3D printout, allow the artist to build up a personal archive and, for sentimental or practical reasons, to look again at works that have long been sold.

Editions and low cost variants

Digital twins allow the artist to bring out editions.

Perhaps 10 copies for € 500 each sell more easily than a single copy for € 5,000?

Or you can bring out a half-size edition in addition to the original at a reduced price.

Since digital twins can be scaled almost arbitrarily, the artist also has the opportunity to test on the market which size of a work is most popular.

Marketing and Sales

With the appropriate know-how, 3D prints can be produced comparatively quickly and inexpensively.

Perhaps it makes sense to send a remote collector a digital copy to make the purchase decision easier? The collector has the replica in hand and can then buy the original online.

Digital variants

The artist can add or change the digital twin using software. Perhaps some of the artist's creative ideas cannot be implemented on the physical workpiece.

Editing the digital twin digitally and adding it creatively can mean new impulses for sculpture.

Derived products

Since the works can also be miniaturized, it is also conceivable to print them out as jewelry or accessories in a greatly reduced size and perhaps to sell them as a gadget or to distribute them as a giveaway to undecided collectors.

Beautiful new world …

Of course, not all of the things listed here will be alluring to every artist. Some sculptors may turn up their noses at the thought of a “low cost” version of their art.

But the multitude of possibilities now open remains as a potential space for development for sculpture, which until recently only had very limited digital possibilities.

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