During the last decade, a wide range of techniques of digital production, especially 3D-printing, became available for everyone. In 3D-printing, the formerly separate spheres of digital and analogue design form a »new materiality« that merges digital and analogue(see Antoine Picon (2004): Architecture and the virtual. Towards a new materiality). This new materiality does not only change manufacturing, it also questions the modernist paradigms of industrial design. We can now make plastic products without investment in tooling. 3D-printing allows ad hoc production of non-serial products, it enables us to realize unseen shapes of high geometric complexity. Users can now participate in design by printing their own things. We can change each product from time to time. In 3D-printing, there are no finite products and no hierarchical design processes. We can observe a »material turn« in digital design.
A lot of research has been done on the technical side and regarding the software or architectural design concepts. But regarding the potentials of the new technologies, the concepts for 3D-printed daily artifacts often remain unambitious. 3D-Printing applications still stick to the old paradigms of industrial design. They repeat the restrictions and conceptual ideas of seriality. They do not reflect the context, the formal possibilities and the material conditions of digital production. They are not designed towards the new materiality.
This lack of originality is linked to an epistemological and methodological problem. We should not underestimate the innovative potentials of makers, craftsmen and engineers involved in the 3D-printing community. Their specific knowledge and their skills needs to be considered when redesigning the design process around 3D-printing.
I am currently preparing this project at IXDM Basle.
Lecture at the conference of the German Design Research society on the material turn in digital design.