As the sampler was to hip-hop so 3D printing is to sculpture and designed objects. Open source 3D printing has paved the way for a revolution in making things. Desktop digital fabrication is bringing the cost of failure down by speeding up the prototyping process and collapsing the distance between idea and product, problem and solution, designer and end user. The outcome of this revolution is a sea change in the relationship between the engineer and their audience. 3D printing and scanning platforms combined are almost like time machines or powerful microscopes. They reach back into the past and teleport objects of antiquity around the globe, reproducing and sharing them for everyone to touch and hold in their hands. Just as blogs disrupted publishing, and smart phones changed communications so digital fabrication will transform the world of objects and the services that surround them.

Through several different trajectories i am exploring how this profound shift in making and manufacturing offers new opportunities to produce works, distribute them and engage with new audiences and communities. My 3D printed objects are modular projects that use interlocking forms, mechanical fasteners, connective elements, hinged parts and remixed objects as part of a formal aesthetic promoting adaptability, contingency, variability and an open source philosophy.

I look for points of intersection or fracturing where several different ways of thinking can be collapsed to produce new forms. Publishing, for example, has served many societies as a efficient way to record, archive and share knowledge of all types and forms. The printed page has had a vital role in the history of ideas one that is perhaps giving way now to the pixel and lcd screen. As publishing migrates to screens and web pages over (word for inky pages) so the physical becomes a rare commodity. In this arena 3D printing pages, fusing upon them textures and surfaces – and forming them into books is a logical, if slightly absurd, progression of the form. The 3D printed book is an opportunity to bring tactile experiences into the realm of scholarly thought, one that encourages people to “touch the art” – to have a visceral, intimate experience with it.

I like to create projects that have multiple possible outcomes and modes of display. My 3D printed objects are exhibited in galleries, makerspaces and museums; archived and collected by libraries and other institutions; and in most cases available online via Creative Commons for for anyone to download the files and make for themselves in a format of their choosing.

Currently i am in the studio phase of a six month artist residency at The Art Institute of Chicago where i have been demonstrating and presenting about my work and the 3D printing hardware / software i use. My first 3D printed book “Orihon” featuring 3D scanned artifacts from museums including AIC and The Met, has been exhibited nationally in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Baltimore and Chicago. It has been acquired by several libraries and artists book collections including MIT, Yale University, Occidental College and The Joan Flasch Collection at SAIC. Another important advancement in the democratization of thought is the humble photocopy machine. Friend to zinesters everywhere the Xerox machine is unparalleled device for reproducing text and images, quickly and easily. For the 3D printed book the photocopy machine does not yet exist. Until such a time that a comparable device can scan and assemble surfaces we will have to make do with improvisations on the form. THus “Orihon” sports both the positive and negative surfaces of each 3d scan making it a simple operation to press malleable material into the flipside to make a faithful and immediate reproduction. I am working on my second 3D printed book during my current artists residency featuring bas-relief pieces from the AIC collection. In September I will return to working on my third 3D printed book, an architectural reference volume of Louis Sullivan’s early decorative architectural work with a view to publishing it before the end of 2014.

Tom Burtonwood is an artist and educator based in the Chicago area. Like many people he discovered 3D printing by way of the laser cutter and quickly became enamored by the alchemy of it all. He is the first Ryan Center Artist-in-Residence at The Art Institute of Chicago. Recent projects include Orihon “the world’s first” 3D printed book, which was featured on The Huffington Post, Boing Boing, The Paris Review and Tech Crunch. His 3D printed art works have been exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum at World Maker Faire in New York; and at the Bruce High Quality Foundation University in New York; Terrain Biennial in Oak Park; Medium Cool Book Fair, Chicago; Fuseworks and Front Room Gallery both in Brooklyn, New York; New Capital in Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center. Burtonwood has presented his work and demonstrated 3D printing at numerous events and venues including The United States Department of Labor Administration, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Ideas Week, kCura, Pecha Kucha Chicago, 6018 North and Columbia College Chicago. He is a contributor to Make Magazine and his reviews are included in the current Make Magazine Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014. Burtonwood teaches at both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. He is currently working on a new 3D printed book project with Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. It will be an architectural reference book of Louis Sullivan’s early decorative ornaments.