It’s with great pleasure that I present you with an interview I did with Dolf Veenvliet, the mastermind behind Entoforms. Dolf describes Entoforms as creatures that he grows based on a name using a 3d printer. They’re extremely cool, and given my recent obsession with 3d printing, I was thrilled to ask someone in the field a few questions.
Interview with Dolf Veenvliet:
Unfinished Man: Please tell us a little bit about your history as an artist, and what inspired you to use 3d printing as a medium.
Dolf: I was trained as a traditional ‘monumental’ artist. Actually I didn’t touch a computer until after I finished my education, and even then I really saw the things I was creating on the computer as a past-time. Certainly not as serious art. Only 2 years ago, at a chance meeting with a gallery owner, when he was showing interest in getting digital prints of some of my creations did I start thinking different. The cool thing about 3D printing is that once again… I can design an object, and hold it in my hands. And now… with this technology, it feels as if the possibilities are limitless.
Unfinished Man: What’s involved in the physical manufacturing of the 3d forms? 3d printing is starting to get more media attention lately, but I’m wondering exactly how long it takes to print one of your creations, and what material is used? I’ve heard of a nylon material being used in some 3d printing.
Dolf: Well… there are printers that are somewhat affordable now, that I could purchase and print with myself. But they are not too reliable, and don’t give the best results. So I’m using a commercial service. That way I can concentrate on the design, and presentation. There are a whole bunch of different techniques and plastics they use… The one I use most is called “full color sandstone”, which is the only color material available for now. I’m quite sure it’s also some sort of plastic, and certainly not sandstone! The technology is developing incredibly quickly. There’s a bunch of limitations right now (thickness/detail), but they are all being resolved at an incredible pace.
Unfinished Man: Do you think 3d printers will one day be used for large scale manufacturing? I’ve read about companies using them for the production of items like prosthetic legs.
Dolf: The entire big deal about 3D printers is that they’re turning manufacturing upside down. Where in all manufacturing we grew up with everything gets cheaper and cheaper the more you make of it…. in 3D printing that doesn’t matter at all! Make 1 or make 1000, they all cost the same amount. The result of this is… it hardly costs anything extra (just the designers time) to make everything unique, and adjusted to this specific customer. That is where it’s strength lies… mass customization might sound like a buzzword only, but it’s on it’s way.
Unfinished Man: You’re running an exhibit soon. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Dolf: Actually, I got some sad news about that… I had to make a decision last week on whether or not to participate in the august exhibit, and my crowdfunding campaign just hadn’t brought in enough to join in.
So… the first real exhibit of the Entoforms will now be in October at the Affordable Art Fair in Amsterdam (affordable means anything under 5000 Euros). It’s a huge event, with galleries from all over Europe. I’m hugely excited to be a part of it again.
Unfinished Man: Did you come up with the “dna” software yourself? You mention in your video that the code is written using python – is that your own work, or did you contract that out?
Dolf: I do all my own coding. Being able to program a computer a little is hugely liberating. There is a power in understanding how a computer actually works, and manipulating that at a deeper level than clicking
with a mouse. These machines are really incredibly powerful, and most of us only tap into a tiny percentage of it. When you work in 3D in the computer you can create entire worlds, all of your own design. Which is great, but you’re limited a bit by the software you use (that doesn’t just go for 3D). If you can also make your own tools…
well… the possibilities are well and truly limitless.
Unfinished Man: What are your plans going forward? Obviously you’ll be busy with this exhibit for a while, but then what?
Dolf: I foresee working on improving, or evolving rather, the Entoforms for years to come… there’s a long way to go yet. But the technology I’m creating for the Entoforms doesn’t only apply to these little creatures. I did a very quick hacky experiment recently where I used the same exact methods to “grow” space ships (see below). So yeah.. ok space ships are incredibly nerdy, and not very useful, but it makes a point. Once you can generate shapes, and control that well, you can generate anything. From a creature to a space ship, a lamp post, a flower pot… jewellery… Maybe even clothes. Generative modelling at some point will help people who aren’t designers, create their own custom products.
Unfinished Man: When will customers be able to purchase one of these for themselves, and how much will they cost?
Dolf: You already can get an Entoform by taking part in my little crowdfunding campaign (http://www.indiegogo.com/