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Will 3D Printing Replace or Augment Craftsmanship?

August 20, 2014
3D Printing Craft

In my hometown of Pittsburgh, there is a beautiful restaurant, the Grand Concourse in Station Square.  It is the site of the former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station.  My grandfather was a cabinet maker for the railroad, and my grandmother once told me, years later, that one of his accomplishments was the refurbishment of its ornate ceiling.  A section of the elaborate crown molding, made of marble I believe, had been destroyed.  My grandfather created a replica out of wood which was such a close match, one couldn’t pick out the faux molding.  I imagine the hours of labor that went into this important project and wonder how my grandfather would have reacted to our now being able to quickly scan the molding and print a copy overnight.

Many believe that the craftsmanship of that generation has largely been lost, replaced by mass produced materials.  But perhaps 3D printing will spur a high-tech revival.  Access to 3D scanning and additive manufacturing technologies already allow us to re-create artifacts that have been lost to time.   RapidMade often gets requests to replicate facades and other architectural features.  We once printed replacement stove handles for an antique oven.  And now, digital designs and additive manufacturing enable artisans to imagine and create exotic and unique objects that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to be made in my grandfather’s time.

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