ZPC blog

What Does the 3D Printer and the Synthesizer Have in Common?

When you think of the synthesizer, what comes to mind? Its place at the top of the list of musical innovation or how it was abused by every artist in the 1980s? While your opinion and frame of reference likely falls somewhere in between, the synthesizer has become known for its technological aspects over its role in making music.

The same can be said on the 3D printer and its role in making art and functional items. At least according to Ron Arad, Israeli designer and artist. Recently, Arad developed a line of eyewear with New Eye London that was developed and manufactured using 3D printing. However, he wishes more people would focus on the artistry of the glasses over how they’re made.

The Beginnings of 3D Printing Innovation

When Arad was first starting to experiment with 3D printing, he created a piece with wording carved out all around a spiral lamp. When he showed this piece to one of his biggest mentors, the man thought the words were actually carved out but in reality the entire piece was printed. He said it was an honor for him to explain something to one of his idols. At that point, hardly anyone had heard of 3D printing, manufacturing, or fabrication, which gave it more of a novelty factor. Saying that something was made using this technology was also more noteworthy at the time.

But just as the synthesizer become more commonplace, the technology was abused. Now, everyone and their mom is using 3D printers to create all sorts of items. And sure, that can be a good thing. But it can also be highly redundant, especially if it doesn’t make sense to make a particular item using this tech.

Watch Ron Arad talk about the similarities between the synthesizer and the 3D printer

"3D printing is abused" - Ron Arad from Dezeen on Vimeo.

The Practical Art of 3D Printing

In keeping with Arad’s earlier statements, let’s talk for just a moment about his latest collection. The eyewear line he developed with New Eye London was made using 3D printing. But he’d rather people didn’t focus on that fact. Rather, he wants people to talk about the qualities that make the glasses themselves great. What features do they have that set them apart? That’s what he wants emphasized. If one of those features is the result of 3D printing, by all means, talk it up. However, you wouldn’t talk about the virtues of the factory line when promoting a standard pair of glasses, now would you?

Because of this, we kind of see his point: talk up the 3D printing tech when it makes sense, otherwise lay off the novelty factor. 3D printing won’t ever shed its kitsch reputation unless we treat it like a standard piece of technology.

In Arad’s collection, some of the glasses are made from a single piece of material. There aren’t any screws or hinges. They are simple and effective as comfortable eyewear. There aren’t any parts that can break and there’s no assembly expense. This cuts down on the cost of materials, production, and manufacturing. Not to mention, it reduces the time required to get each individual pair to market. If you wear glasses, how often have you bent the frames or lost a screw, requiring a costly trip back to the eye doctor’s office to get them fixed?

Emphasizing Results Over Method

When all is said and done, customers will only really care about the product they hold in their hands and how well it lives up to their expectations--not how it was made. This is why we tend to agree with Arad’s statements: technology doesn’t matter so much as what you do with it.