3D Printers in Art

The artist Jack Elliott, professor at Cornell University in the USA, has scanned a Tasmanian blue gum tree to reproduce it from paper on a 3D printer. The project aims to focus on the relationship between man and nature.

Some of the world’s tallest deciduous trees grow in Tasmania’s forests, such as the Blue Eucalyptus, also known as the Tasmanian Blue Gum Tree. The deforestation of forests by the forestry industry is a problematic issue on the island south of Australia. During his time as a residency artist at the University of Tasmania, Jack Elliott came up with the idea for a somewhat unusual project. His plan is to reverse the process of felling trees for paper production and instead digitally capture a tree using 3D scanning technology and later reproduce it on the paper 3D printer.

The tree used for the project is a blue rubber tree at the university campus, which had to be felled for safety reasons. So that Elliott could scan him for his project, only the upper part was removed. The artist had to laboriously work on the backward trunk by removing the bark. The die was then digitally scanned on iPads using a 3D scanner to generate a 3D model.

The idea is to teach people about the relationship between man and nature,”says Elliott. “Trees are a good metaphor for some of the problems, from invasive species to global warming and population ecology.”

With regard to the production of paper from the world’s largest trees, he adds:

“Using the world’s most majestic trees to make something of such little value is painful for me and probably for many other people.”

For 3D printing of the model in a smaller format, a paper 3D printer from the Irish manufacturer Mcor is used. This cuts and sticks individual sheets of paper together to create a three-dimensional object. Even if the 3D-printed trees will not be larger than 30 cm, this is about the symbolic character of the project.

Before Elliott leaves Tasmania, he also wants to transform the root system of the felled tree into a work of art.

“I am working on revealing the beauty of nature rather than imposing my own will on it,” he concludes.