Technology has always had an influence on art and design, and today’s new tools are enabling creative types to push new limits. With three dimensional (3D) printing offering the ability to create physical objects from scratch, and new design tools making it possible to exert finer creative control over digital creations, the digital influence is being felt in all corners of the creative world. Here are just a few of the latest developments in creative digital technology.
The 3D printing process, developed in the 80s and perfected recently, allows users to mould solid objects from plastic polymers. The idea that a virtual object on your computer can be turned into reality at the touch of a button seems far fetched, but 3D printing is being used to create everything from designer chocolates on cakes to human organs.
Several variations of 3D printing exist, but the one most popularly used by designers is an additive method similar to a modern inkjet printer. Instead of just putting ink on paper, a 3D printer adds layer upon layer of liquid photopolymer to form an object. The polymer is then cured with a laser or heat source to set the correct shape and harden the material.
This technology was originally used to engineer product prototypes, but can now be used to print shoes moulded to fit the wearer’s feet, customised clothing, and designer items like lamps, clocks, tablet stands, and iPhone cases. A more detailed explanation of 3D printing technologies, including the different methods and uses and strengths of each, can be found here.
HP Indigo and digital toner machines
Innovations in digital printing have meant that digital presses, like the HP Indigo, are now able to produce high quality images similar to offset printers. The HP Indigo printers are made with up to seven colour stations and uniquely allow users to mix colours with the ability to cover up to 97% of the Pantone colour spectrum. Specialty inks such as white, silver gold, UV, transparent, and red mean that printing can be customised to almost any job, and completed to the highest quality.
The HP Indigo is even able to produce special effects in its process, using layers of its transparent ElectroInk to create embossed and raised printing effects. These features make it easier for printing companies to produce unique, high quality solutions on demand. Able to print on dark, recycled, transparent, synthetic papers and more, the development of these presses has truly transformed the ease by which clients can receive exceptional results tailored to their every need.
Digital toner machines like the Kodak Nexpress are another example of digital printing rivalling offset. The Kodak Nexpress provides exceptional, consistent colour matching and allows for finishes in matte, satin, or gloss. A long sheet option means you can get the job done faster, able to print 6 page brochures or up to 3 A4 letters at once. This is just further proof of how digital innovations are making the printing industry more productive, economical, and sophisticated. With the availability of these tools, printers are able to print one-off pieces of the highest quality, personalise printing, and achieve virtually any look to suit the taste of the client.
Another technology on the wishlist of many artists and designers is a UV offset printer. These printers are unique in that they can print a range of special effects that conventional offset printers cannot. UV offset printers use UV lights to cure specially formulated inks. This means that when printing is completed on uncoated paper the ink is dry rather than wet, as with traditional printing. This eliminates drying time, meaning you can print more in less time. UV printers have eight colour stations, meaning both sides are able to be printed in one pass, cutting down production times even further.
UV offset printers produce a vibrant high quality finish, even on uncoated paper. They allow for wider colour gamut, sharper graphics, scuff resistance, and create a more even surface than traditional printers. It’s for these reasons that UV printers are used commercially to create everything from signage to promotional products. Increasingly, they are being appropriated by artists to print intricate collages, major installation pieces, and canvases larger than 15 metres wide.
Dye sublimation printers let designers print their designs directly onto textiles. This technology has been used in the past to print photograph-quality images onto t-shirts, but it is now moving to the world of high fashion. At the most recent New York Fashion Week, manufacturer Epson demonstrated its SureColor F7170 and showcased 11 designers who are experimenting with the technology to use wearable works of art.
These and other digital innovations continue to expand what artists and designers can do and what new products will be produced. Imagination is the only limit here, and who knows what the next great technology will be?