Editor's Note
Issue: Volume 39 Issue 5: (Sept/Oct 2016)

Editor's Note

Once the explicit domain of high-end manufacturing, 3D printing has found a home in many industries, extending its roots into art and entertainment, and beyond.

Several years ago, lower-cost 3D printing started taking the world by storm. It became an outlet for artists looking to blend their knowledge of 3D computer graphics with their talent for craftsmanship, whether for jewelry creation, clothing design, or toy manufacturing. Soon, hobbyists and entrepreneurs began offering their services. Want a unique necklace? No problem. What about a figurine of your favorite game character? Sure thing. With scanning equipment, 3D software, and, of course, 3D printers, the maker community was in business.

Today, 3D printing is still big (and small) business. We can print food (among the more delicious options is the Hershey/3D Systems’ CocoJet). We can 3D print spare parts for cars, appliances… just about anything, even those that are rare and hard to find. We are even 3D printing body parts, such as ears, in a process called bioprinting. Indeed, the key to all these is the material. 

Kathleen Maher examines the growth of today’s 3D printer market in her feature titled “Sliding Down the Curve and Rising to Opportunity” on page 28.

Of course, one cannot talk about 3D printing right now without mentioning Kubo and the Two Strings, the latest stop-motion animated film from Laika. For the past 10 years, Laika has been pushing the envelope in this genre by pioneering a blend of rapid prototyping, puppetry, and CGI, resulting in emotive performances from the range of characters starring in its feature films. 

Kubo, though, sets the bar higher than ever. It is an epic, borrowing from the styles of famed visionaries. According to director Travis Knight, underlying its epic narrative are the films of David Lean, with their intimate stories set against sweep-ing landscapes; the samurai epics of Akira Kurosawa, with every frame drenched in thrashing rain, wind, and fire; and the untrammeled visions of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, JRR Tolkien, and Hayao Miyazaki. 

This being a film steeped in Japanese tradition, Kurosawa and Miyazaki’s touches figure prominently into the look and feel. “Every frame in a Kurosawa film is like a painting: His composition, cutting, movement, and lighting were an aesthetic muse on Kubo. But it’s not just how he made movies; it’s what he made movies about,” says Knight. “[Meanwhile, Miyazaki’s] work is an interpretation, like an impressionist painting of the place, capturing the feeling and experience of it.”

Furthermore, the design of the miniatures and CG elements reflect the artistry of Kiyoshi Saito, who used woodcarvings to create impressions on paper. He used a minimalist, impressionistic approach, embracing the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, or imperfect beauty, to transform the world through reductive beauty of simple, rough-hewn shapes and patterns that suggest rather than meticulously reproduce, according to Martin McEachern, who documented the process used to create Kubo in the feature “Myth in Miniature” on page 18.

The director’s vision and style that were followed by the production designers are complex, requiring Laika to add to its 3D printing repertoire, as it once again ups the ante in this genre and shows the range of possibilities when art combines with 3D printing technology.