The Quixotic Divinity headdress is the premiere piece of wearable art from Chicago-based artist, and longtime proponent of the 3D-printed medium, Joshua Harker. The headdress debuted on the runway in November 2013 at the 3D Printshow held at that Business Design Centre in London’s Islington borough and the Carrousel Du Louvre in Paris.
View: Photos of the Day: 3D Printed Headdress is Wearable Art
The engineering feat serves both as an eye-catching addition to the catwalk, as well as a representation of the shift to design-driven manufacturing from manufacturing-driven design.
Inspired by Harker’s intent to push the limitations of existing technology, laser-sintering system provider EOS sponsored his design, growing (laser sintering) the 8 ½-pound headdress on an EOSINT P 760 additive manufacturing (AM) system.
Quixotic Divinity [QD] resulted from automatism, an approach to the surrealist genre in which the artist spontaneously draws and develops from a dream state. Beginning in the 1980s, his intention had always been to develop his work three-dimensionally, but no medium sufficed until 3D printing came into play.
“I’m letting these things grow in front of me as I work on the composition,” Harker says about his process. “A major reason that I use 3D printing and the software is the way that I have to work. It can’t be coding, or using formulas. I have to be able to work quickly and fluidly, as an artist would do with a pencil or clay.”
Harker starts to work without any preconception or sketching. In this particular case, the only parameter he accounted for was center of gravity, because the headdress had to stay secured on a model’s head. For the more organic shapes, he used Pixologic’s ZBrush, a digital sculpting and painting program, and then switched to Autodesk 3D Studio Max to use the software’s predictive and interference features, and sharpen the edges. He also used Blender, a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software.
“ZBrush doesn’t really do well with hard-edge and mechanical types of things because you have no parametrics or any dimensions; it’s more proportional,” he says.
According to Harker, switching between three different software types can be trying. “It’s a real pain in the ass,” he says, “but it has gotten better than the old days.” About 10 years ago, he was using as many as 12 different programs; as each step required a different software. In comparison, three isn’t too bad.
“Once the piece is finished, I go into right brain mode, getting all of the technical stuff right. I make sure the dimensions are good; make sure it isn’t a five gigabyte file, scale the file, validate it, and export. In the past, every one of those things required different programs, now I have three programs to do 90 percent of my work.”
Building a ‘Monstrosity’
Harker wasn’t driven to make something intentionally scary or disturbing, but QD is big, foreign, and even alien in the sense that the types of shapes and designs really haven’t been used before, particularly in the fashion world. However, now that designers are more enabled with 3D printing technology and software, the unique shapes are becoming more prevalent.
“I focused on how I wanted it to come out [onto the runway],” Harker says. “It’s this monstrosity that people are not used to seeing, in form. It’s the kind of thing that has so many facets that you couldn’t make it before all of this technology.”
To humanize the model after the initial shock, the front piece detaches and hangs from a sintered chain, revealing the face beneath. According to Harker, this action changes the sculpture’s context because it mimics the female form on the bodice, at the waist. He accounted for the model’s dimensions to ensure precise placement.
“I wanted people to be shocked, to be moved by it. I wanted to take the opportunity to do something big, and have people intrigued by it. With all of the media [we consume], we have seen everything. To put something in front of a person, and make them wonder what they are even looking at is a priority for me.”
The headdress pays homage to Asian, African, and Native American cultures that dress up the body to represent something bigger than the human form. It wasn’t a representative version of any one culture, but Harker wanted to make something in context with that level of significance across cultures.
“I envision what these things will end up looking like, and tend to make them symmetrical, so you get this kind of Rorschach inkblot thing,” he adds, noting the familiar psychological test. “Because of the symmetry, people see things in them and possibly project faces into it; there is a monstrous quality to that.”
Why Laser Sintering?
Harker poured approximately 200 hours of work into the headdress before handing the file over to Novi, MI-based EOS of North America’s e-Manufacturing Solutions, which is primarily used as an R&D and benchmarking facility.
Harker has worked with EOS laser sintering technology for more than 10 years. “The [EOS] relationship grew organically,” Harker recalls. “Ten years ago, a perfect storm of technology, software, and materials engineering all came together and it was simply the technology that worked best for what I was making.”
As Harker remembers, the technology was available, but the software wasn’t ready. “When I first started sculpting, the first material I made a piece with used Polyjet technology. It worked, technically speaking, but the material was brittle and collapsed under its own weight. I didn’t like the colors, and I just wasn’t happy with it — even though I had technically accomplished what I was trying to do. EOS technology had cleaner builds and better resolution, so I committed to vendors who were running those machines.”
When the 3D Print Show offered Harker the opportunity to design a fashion piece that was ambitious both in design and cost, EOS stepped in and sponsored his effort. In turn, he built to the biggest dimensions EOS’s biggest machine could handle.
The EOSINT P 760 Plastic Laser Sintering System is capable of manufacturing fully functional plastic parts. The system can build parts without the need for support structures, as big as 700 x 380 x 580 mm. The 760 can build up to 32 mm/h in as precise as 0.06 mm layers. After 200 hours of design time, Harker’s masterpiece was printed in polyamide in less than 26 hours.
“Josh has really taken the technology and used it full force for his creations, lifting the constraints of traditional manufacturing. How else would he have grown something like that?” asks Jessica Nehro, field marketing manager, EOS of North America. “It’s always exciting for us to be at the forefront of the market and to see what is being done with our technology.”
The printed headdress is both durable and robust. “What I like about the process is that, with features one mm or thinner, it’s not brittle,” Harker says. “It has flexibility to it and it maintains its shape under its own weight. The thinnest areas are the chains and we’ve had no issues with those at all. The strength and durability make it reliable.”
According to Nehro, with an opportunity like this, cost isn’t a factor (and thus, not provided). “We didn’t even factor cost,” she says. “It’s hard to put a cost on it since we’re not a service provider, and we didn’t look at it that way.”
Nehro stresses that plastic laser sintering is a manufacturing technology, not to be confused with desktop printers. “These are plant floor system technology processes,” Nehro adds. “With all the talk about 3D printing comes a lot of confusion. Our systems are not $19,000 systems.”
Harker adds, “These are the technologies that are changing what things can be; what we can make; and the shapes we can use that have never been used before. Some of these things can’t even be done in pieces and assembled, there is simply no other way to make them.”
The Quixotic Divinity headdress is further proof that industrial 3D printing is no longer an unrealistic god, and it signifies the ongoing shift to design-driven manufacturing.
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping