Friday, 23 February 2018

Artistic Explorations: 3D Design (2)

For the 3D Design course  I'm currently doing (see first article here) at Make Aberdeen, we have to decide what our final project would be. I'm passionate about printmaking and intrigued about how new technologies can be combined with traditional methods. After reading an article in Printmaking Today by The Postdigital Printmaker, I decided to explore ways to create printmaking plates through 3D printing and lasercutting.

Make Digital Fabrication Studio, Aberdeen

Examples of 3D printed designs at Make

Examples of  lasercut designs at Make

Rolls of thermoplastic filament for our 3D printer at Make

Make Aberdeen

Instructions for the lasercutter at Make

Big scary laser sign at Make

3D printing technologies shown in a diagram

Last week I had my first attempt in using one of my images for a 3D printed relief pate with software program Ultimaker Cura. Together with my tutor/studio manager we set some of the parameters such as layer height, wall thickness, infill density and whether white or black should be bottom or top relief. I chose this image (manipulated with apps on IPhone) because of the high contrast.

Iphone photo inverted as the basis for my plate

Ultimaker Cura and parameters

Once sent to the printer, I had to wait patiently for about 1.5 hrs and let the printer do its work.

The self-built Ultimaker 3D printer

3D printing of the plate in action

The final plate is 50 x 50 x 3 mm.

The 3D printed relief plate (top view)

The 3D printed relief plate (side view)

As the plate was too rough, I used sandpaper to make it smoother. Then I inked it up intaglio, pressing the ink in the lower parts of the plate and wiping off with scrim. I took off the last remains from the higher parts of the plate with some tissue paper.

The 3D printed relief plate inked up (intaglio)

I then used my tabletop Xcut Xpress printing press to pull off some test prints.

Printing my plate with the Xcut Xpress

Unfortunately the results look like a relief print (higher part is printed) instead of an intaglio print (lower part is printed) that I was aiming for. I realised this was due to the fact that the plate was built up too high so that the soaked paper couldn't pick up any ink.

Various prints of the plate from dark to light (ghost prints)

Various prints of the plate from dark to light (ghost prints)

After this first test I changed the parameters to make it much less deep, but that didn't work at all as all detail was lost. I might have to spend more time to make this technique work for me but I'm not convinced it can achieve the amount of detail I want in my prints. I'm now in the process of making printing plates on the lasercutter instead and I will share my findings and some print results with you here hopefully soon.


  1. Really like the way you're describing this process..look forward to the follow up with the laser cutter!
    Thank you Fenneke!

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback, Maja! You might have already seen the result with the lasercutter on my Facebook page, but I should have it published here this week.