3D Printing Industry Case Studies

3D Printing and Interactive Art Installations


3D printing is enabling artists, designers and engineers to explore new ways of creating and to develop products and artworks in a faster and more efficient manner. Meet Ken Rinaldo, contemporary artist and educator known for his interactive robotics, 3D animation and bio-art installations. With the help of the Series 1 Pro by Type A Machines, Ken is able to truly take advantage of the benefits of rapid prototyping as an artist, address the complexities of his works, and meet strict production deadlines while keeping his costs low.

Ken has been employing 3D printing in his works since 2001. Two of his earlier installations were Spider Haus, a rapid prototyped amplification environment for a common house spider, and the Autotelematic Spider Bots (2006), a series of 10 robotic spiders in collabration with Matt Howard, which premiered in Sunderland England as part of the AV Festival curated by Honor Harger.

From then on, he continued to work in 3D and further explored the symbiosis of both natural and technological systems through his various art installations.


The Autotelematic Spider bots is a series of 10 spider-like sculptures that could find their own food source and communicate that back to the other robots so they could also locate the food source.

“The process of designing something in 3D virtual space and then being able to print it was simply magic. The ability to pull ideas from your imagination, giving them form in 3D virtual space and then physically manifest is too good to be true,” Ken shared.

Finding the Right 3D Printing Solution

But as with any experimentations, he also had some challenges before he was able to find the right 3D printing technology that can allow him to further advance his inventions and push the boundaries of art. According to Ken, before Type A Machines, achieving consistent quality prints was difficult.

“Repeatability was challenging and getting larger parts that were printed in sections to match up was difficult,” he said. “The sheer cost of service bureaus was also prohibitive. I needed to trade my artworks with the service bureaus to afford their services. The additional challenge of working with multiple file formats, as well as the wait time, were all issues in the production of works that needed to meet strict deadlines of delivery,” he added.

Before long, Ken purchased a Type A Machine Series 1 3D printer and even recommended the purchase of seven more in the Fabrication Lab at The Ohio State University where he teaches. “The fact that the plastics could be used directly as an object and that I could work with many kinds were exciting. I wanted to experiment with both ABS and PLA filaments and the fact that the latest Type A printers can print with Igus Plastics for mechanical parts that will not experience wear over time, is just extraordinary,” Ken explained.

Pushing the Boundaries

With the desire to find a unique artistic voice and create something revolutionary, Ken started his interactive art making in graduate school at The San Francisco State University. He wanted to promote a new way of thinking about art, so he focused on producing art forms that grabbed viewers and encouraged them to really ponder the underlying questions inherent to his artworks.

“When people walked by and looked at traditional forms of art, they seemed not to be as engaged and spent barely any time with the artwork. I found this frustrating given the time spent making, so I worked to grab the viewer and slow them down. I wanted viewers to think about the underlying questions inherent in my artwork. Second, I noticed viewers wanted to form relationships with each other, animals and interactive machine forms. Motion, through motorized activation, seemed like one answer as it did succeed in slowing the viewer down to ponder the work of art.”


Autopoiesis a group consciousness of robots at the Kiasma Museum by Ken Rinaldo

Also inspired by discoveries in science and technology, Ken studied and deconstructed various mechanical objects. “All of the deconstruction taught me about how machines and electronics are made and the 'logic of the machine' and why things are manufactured in particular ways,” he explained. “I also began studying electronics, robotics and living systems more thoroughly, and soon, plants, humans, and fish became activators and interactants instead of passive parts of the works.” 

With 3D printing, Ken was able to expand his explorations and test out new mechanical systems that he can incorporate in his artworks. “With Type A Machines 3D printer, I was able to gain the ability to try new mechanical systems quickly and confirm their efficacy and function with testing, as well as achieve high-level of success in each print. The ease of use in the Type A printer, with an excellent and quick interface, allows me to be more productive and focus on ideas instead of debugging and technical issues,” he said.

“The emergence of 3D printing has revolutionized art, design and engineering as we know it. The ability to quickly test ideas and transform them into physical works, design products, sculptural, and robotic objects has been one of the most significant developments of our time.”

Ken’s Latest Project

Asked about his more recent works, Ken shared with us his new project about Denmark, the C/Borg: The Parliament of Robots/Robottinget. An art construction that transforms the space at DIAS Digital Interactive Art Space, C/Borg tells the story of the successful social democracy of Denmark and will use the Series 1 3D printer for the development of different parts of the project. “It is inspired by the nature, culture, and architecture of the country,” Ken explained. 

“The Type A 3D printer will be used in every phase of this project to develop custom designs and final materials taking part in the exhibition. It will provide custom mounts for holding Semaphoric works that also hold stepper motors and allow these custom parts to be developed quickly. They are also being used to create custom gardens for Danish Mosses and Epiphytes that will hang from the ceiling, and Semaphore robots that spin on the walls as messages to the future of humankind about environmental issues. Of course, they will use environmentally friendly PLA plastic.”

C_Borg_Parliament_of_Robots_3D_Visual_by_Ken_Rinaldo.png3D visual of the C / Borg Parliament of Robots for Coppenhangen Train Station by Ken Rinaldo


3D print designed to hold stepper motor and Arduino with motor board for C / Borg Parliament of Robots

3D _printed_epiphyte_garden_and_sonophore_robots.jpg

3D print epiphyte gardent (left) and Sonophore robots (right) for C / Borg Parliament of Robots by Ken Rinaldo

As for his role as an educator, Ken shared that the 3D printer’s quality and durability were the deciding factors why he chose Type A Machines for Ohio State University. “In a school environment where we have 1000s of students and faculty working with the system, we needed something super tough that was going to last. The metal construction of Type A is impressive, and we felt this would allow us to have systems that could last. I also found the help in the home office, and the fact that they were built in the US admirable.”

Ken also shared that his New Media Robots class will be using Type A Machines printers “to create custom robotics and to integrate functional electronics into conceptual forms of art and invention."

"These systems have become central to our processes in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University as well as to my practice as a contemporary artist working to prototype the future.”

To learn more about Ken Rinaldo and his works, visit http://www.kenrinaldo.com/