Plastic Alternatives: 3D Printing in an Age of Material Wealth

3d-printingToday’s world of 3D printing goes far beyond those initial plastic filaments that crudely constructed an object from a digital file. Depending on the project, it’s possible to create a table from metal, an action figure from sugar, or a bust portrait from molded clay. Lately, the latter pursuit has been on the minds of Yao van den Heerik and Marlieke Wijnakker, two designers in the Netherlands who have developed the means to craft clay with printers. Their speedy methods allow objects to be printed in as little as 15 minutes, which is faster and more accurate than any sculptor on Earth. Using natural and recyclable material, their pieces are not only built with our environment in mind, but the clay is so tough that it can last 5000 years without degrading.

Perhaps the better question to ask is: What do you need clay for, when plastic will do the job? Besides clay’s environmentally friendly properties, the material is better suited for bust portraiture. Under the typical model, a client visits a sculptor and sits still for hours as he shapes a solid block of clay over multiple sessions. With a specialty 3D printer, however, you can visit that same sculptor and talk for a while about how you want the bust to look. Then, he’ll take a quick series of photos, scan your upper body with a 3D scanner tool, and upload that data to his printing software.

From there, the sculptor prints a rough version of the bust in wet clay form, which gives them the freedom to use photos as a reference point for smaller details. Essentially, the 3D printer does all of the grunt work in a few minutes, letting sculptors work their magic where it really counts. By the end of the process, the sculptor has created a piece with tools and by hand, emerging with a product that feels painstakingly crafted (which it is). Behind the scenes, however, there’s a 3D printer at work to help streamline the production.

Currently, these new devices are tailored for semi-professionals and hobbyist sculptors, but as the technology continues to improve, it will most likely be adopted on a professional level. In time, the printers will also add more features, such as multiple colors and different styles of clay. The potential for creativity has barely been tapped. Besides bust portraits, clay could be used for a range of other applications, including durable pottery, natural children’s toys, vintage skateboard wheels, and kiln-fired jewelry. That doesn’t even take into account how artists could use the material to design abstract shapes and decorative pieces. Clay has been in use since ancient times, but now our civilization has come full circle and found ways to shape clay using modern machines.

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog,

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  1. Personally I think plastic is the best material and always will be.
    3D Quick Print´s last blog post ..The ever growing demand of 3D Printing

  2. Generally speaking, you can only print in one material, and this is generally a plastic. Now look around you…how many items are in your room that are made up of a single piece of plastic

  3. Good introduction to 3d printing world 🙂 It is amazing that 3d printing can be use to produce so different things. I am excited especially about 3d in medicine. That’s the future…

  4. Great! 3D printing with recycling can produce some other creative plastic objects from the wasted plastic and can keep the environment clean.

  5. Very interesting read. I for one am glad plastic has replaced clay. It is much easier to worth with and much sturdier. Thanks for sharing.
    Brian´s last blog post ..(Used Item for Sale) API Tracker3 laser tracker (T3)

  6. By reading this post, I think i got the best way to understand about 3D printing and its impact on your business. 3D printing is quite literally out of this world.

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