"3D printing is abused"
- Ron Arad


Designer Ron Arad compares the overuse of 3D printing today to how musicians "abused" synthesisers in this movie made by Alice Masters for London's Design Museum.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

Ron Arad was interviewed about his use of rapid-prototyping technology to coincide with the Design Museum's The Future is Here exhibition, currently displaying some of his pioneering and more recent 3D-printed work.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

"I discovered [3D printing] when it was called rapid prototyping... and I thought 'here's another way of making things'," he says. "Things are very fast, you can draw something in the morning and print it in the evening."

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

Currently exhibited at the museum, Arad's Not Made by Hand, Not Made in China collection of spiralling, flexible 3D-printed designs was launched during Milan design week in 2000.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

"I remember showing it to [designer] Achille Castiglioni when he came to see it," says Arad. "I remember taking the time and explaining to him what it is, and I thought 'this is great, I have something new to teach one of my heroes'."

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

He reminisces about how exciting it was to experiment with the new materials and machinery, but says over time it was overused just as synthesisers were in music.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

"The technology completely took over the studio and it was the most interesting thing we were dealing with, and predictably it became commonplace," he remembers. "Synthesisers were abused completely and so is this technology we're talking about."

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

In the movie he also talks about his range of glasses made entirely from selective laser sintered (SLS) nylon powder, launched in Milan earlier this year and also part of the exhibit.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

"Usually when you make eyewear it has a lot of components and a lot of tedious work with little things, screws, hinges," he says. "We have the whole collection that is monolithic, just one material."

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

Finally, he ponders everyday uses for the technology in the future: "Maybe in the future the plumber will have a machine in his van that will just print the S-pipe according to his needs in the van."

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

Dezeen also interviewed Arad about his 3D-printed eyewear as part of our Dezeen and MINI World Tour coverage of this year's Milan design week.

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad

The Future is Here was created in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board and continues at London's Design Museum until 29 October 2013.

See more designs by Ron Arad »
See more stories about the Design Museum »
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  • Luke

    Yes some people are abusing rapid prototyping…

  • Dr Jones

    In my estimation, there has been a psychic shift reflected in how we talk about this technology, which has been around for nearly 20 years. It has transmuted from “rapid prototyping” to “3D printing.” This reflects that people are no longer employing the technology to quickly assess an idea for another material (or several materials) out of printed plastic, but rather are envisioning these products as final, both in terms of form and material.

    Why is this a problem? There are at least three points I think are worth considering:

    1. The process removes the designer/maker one step further away from how something is made. I often lament the fact that I don’t use my hands enough as a designer and we are increasingly relinquishing control over how something is produced to any number of middlemen/technologies. “3D printing” requires even more computer time, translating it from one program to the next to prepare a file for printing, and that’s all the interaction I have with an object’s manifestation. We are slowly forfeiting our ability to make things, or to make things that make other things (MakerBots nothwithstanding).

    2. It is not a sustainable process, in terms of energy, time and materials. Most of what we see and use in our daily lives is the result of an industrial manufacturing process, some of which have been with us for centuries. Not all of these indutrial processes are sustainable – mostly from a raw material standpoint – but there are sound reasons why mass production exists (everything at a restaurant, for example) and it can be a sustainable path. What 3D printing gives one in “mass customization,” it takes away in high energy, material and time consumption, which is added to because it often requires its own finishing as well.

    3. It is material neutral. I know about printing titanium hip joints and aircraft components, and I know people are investigating how to print “meat.” The point I’m making is that certain processes and applications have evolved based on a given material’s inherent properties. How would a chosen material’s performance properties inform how I design something and how I make it? I think that “3D printing” (rather than “rapid prototyping”) is a result of the the same thinking that has caused most Western countries to allow, nay encourage, China and India to “make” things while we sit back and only press buttons.

  • To really understand this comment, we need to first explore the similarities between the synthesizer and the 3D printer, and why there are similarities in their usage, along with how this will evolve.

    Check out the Shapeways 3D printing blog for a full response.


  • Drew Taylor

    I think of this article everytime I see one of these pics of a “dress” made on a 3D printer being touted as a testament to what 3D printing can do. Because undoubtedly, I then come across investors, and others, in which that has been their primary exposure to 3D printing. They then believe 3D printing is totally unconsumerizable because who in the hell would buy (or make) a dress out of ABS plastic for daily use? No one.

    If, instead, they were exposed to things like Arad’s eye glass collection, their view would be completely different.

    As a shameless plug, we are building a site of printable items that people want and use, check it out: http://3Dagogo.com.

  • Oscar

    3D printing is just a tool added to the toolbox. People should be free to use, experiment and play with the tools. What Ron says here is just pure arrogance, but that’s to be expected from someone who considers himself the greatest designer of all times. Hey Ron, some of your designs were worth the material and some weren’t even worth the paper they were drawn on. Sober up and start realising that.