Beautiful Failures: When Additive Printing Goes Wrong

by Abdul Rehman on September 18, 2013

3D printing is one of the most innovative technologies of the new millennium. It brings imagination to life by transforming virtual objects into real objects that are visual marvels.

However, not every object that comes out of a three-dimensional printer is a success. In fact, due to the complexity of additive printing, failures are sometimes more numerous than successes.

These defective objects have their own beauty and have taken the form of 3D failure art that is becoming increasingly popular.

How Additive Printing Failures Became an Art

3D Printing Failure ArtYou’ve certainly heard the adage that too much of a good thing is bad. This was perhaps what happened to 3D printing a few years back.

The only thing people were interested in showing were their completed and perfected three-dimensional objects, and all failures ended up in the trash can; this had led to a state of monotony.

Nancy Fumero of 3dprintingindustry.com adequately pointed out this state of boredom in her article, saying that:

“The aesthetic boredom I was experiencing looking at 3D printed art objects was that they were mini monoliths, somehow inherently incredible because of their novelty, but their spark was otherwise prone to immediate burn out.”

Realizing this, in 2011, a post at RepRap blog showed the common failures encountered during additive printing, thus, bringing printing failures to public attention. In this post titled “The Art of Failure – When 3D Prints Go Wrong and Lessons from Failure”, the author highlighted the common reasons of failure while working with 3D printers. There were two objectives for this post:

  •  To reassure the people encountering failures in their additive printing attempts that it’s a common occurrence.
  • To encourage them to share their failures so that lessons can be learnt and future failures can be avoided. The last line of the post highlights this spirit:

“Thanks for reading and go make something fail, you will learn loads!”

3D printing failures have since attained the status of a separate art and are shared throughout the web. Especially worth mentioning is a Group at Flickr who was inspired by the RepRap blog and contributed much to encourage discussions of additive printing failures. With over 450 members, this group regularly posts 3D printing failures and ways to avoid them.

When Additive Printing Goes Wrong, Wonderful Things Happen!

Not only are 3D printing failures instructive, they are very beautiful as well. Once a person has shared his failure and discussed it with others, he and others will surely never make the same mistake again. Following are given some of the most spectacular failures along with the reasons behind them:

The IceBot Failure

IceBot FailureMatthew LaBerge was designing upgrade parts for his Rostock Mini.

Due to unknown reasons, the printer printed a horizontal line which was strong enough to hold the thick vertical line.

As Matthew LaBerge says in his Flickr comment:

“I couldn’t print this even if I tried.”

The Celtic Skull Failure

Celtic Skull FailureChris Cecil, while printing a Celtic skull, ended up with half skull and half mess.

The reason was that the print detached from the original bed and moved around.

He suggests not to use a box fan for cooling to avoid this kind of failure.

A comment to his photo appropriately describes the result:

“Definitely a work of unintended art.”

RepRap’s Starfish

RepRaps Starfish FailureRepRap included this picture in their original blog post.

A spectacular starfish which couldn’t be completed because of lack of printing material.

A simple error caused by lack of PLA (a bio-degradable polymer) filament in their printer.

This is something we all need to be careful of so make sure you have enough material before attempting to print anything.

Voronoi Cat Failure

Voronoi Cat FailureZheng3 has posted numerous spectacular additive printing failures on his Pinterest Account.

One of them is this Voronoi cat failure which shows numerous attempts at printing out a green cat on a platform.

After encountering numerous failures, Zheng3 finally got the perfect 3D printed cat he was looking for (shown blurred in the background).

The Damaged Car

Damaged Car FailureIn his book “Beautiful Failures”, a leading designer Bernat Cunl has shown numerous examples of failed three-dimensional prints, highlighting that failure in additive printing very beautiful.

Bernat Cunl says in his article:

“On the path to get the perfect 3D-Print, many meters of filament get piled up as discarded disappointments,
as bastard objects that never were,
as unborn half-things…
…and they are beautiful.”

He has put together a slideshow of most beautiful of his Failed Prints in a Video at Vimeo.

Failure, a Prerequisite for Success

All successful people in history have considered failure as the harbinger of success. They continue to learn from failures in their search for perfection.

Once such perfection is reached, the world is so enchanted by The Perfect Object that it overlooks the million failures that occurred in reaching that perfection.

However, when it comes to 3D printing, even the failures are so beautiful that they are never forgotten but serve as marvellous sights for onlookers and eternal lessons for those who wish to print their own three-dimensional objects.

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