The Discrete Practices of 3D Printing

Authors: Southwick, D. & Ratto, M.

Current discourse around 3D printing has tended to focus on its ability to produce physical manifestations of the digital. While this narrative had helped to popularize these technologies, relying on the powerful and appealing notion of being able to “turn digital dreams into physical realities”, it has also meant that the dominant perception of the technology has been oversimplified. Those who have only read about 3D printers or have only had a basic or controlled experience with them tend to see it as something that is purely digital, whereas users with experience are conscious of the fact that the technology is a combination of both the digital and the material. Yet, understanding 3D printing is more than just coming to terms with its materiality. The central conclusion to be drawn from this research needs to be the diversity of these systems. If 3D printing is ever to be come wildly adopted, or at least a ubiquitous tool for design, the complexity of the various contexts it can occupy needs to be more effectively addressed.


Southwick, D. & Ratto, M. (2015) The Discrete Practices of 3D Printing [white paper]. University of Toronto, Toronto.

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