Sandra Canning Exhibits 3D Printed Photographic Lithopanes

Can fine-art photographers find ways to incorporate 3D printing in their work? Yes, according to Sandra Canning, an award-winning South Florida-based fine art photographer. On September 5, she exhibited four 3-D printed photographic lithopanes alongside three of her traditional 2D prints. The event was part of an artist’s night gathering at the LMNT fine-art collaboration and event space in Miami.

Onlooker admires 3D printed photographs (lithophanes) at art exhibit at the LMNT creative space in Miami, Florida. Photo by Sandra Canning,
Onlooker admires 3D printed photographs (lithophanes) at art exhibit at the LMNT creative space in Miami, Florida. Photo by Sandra Canning,

Lithopanes look like a bas relief to the naked eye, but when the lithopane is backlit, the picture is revealed. Lithopanes were made from translucent porcelain when the art form was popular in the 1800s. Canning’s exhibit at LMNT demonstrated how 3D printing can be used to convert fine-art photos in the 21st-century lithopanes.

Original 2D photography of "Tree in Key Biscanyne" by photographer Sandra Canning,
Original 2D photography of “Tree in Key Biscanyne” by photographer Sandra Canning,
Close-up of the backlit lithopane of "Tree in Key Biscayne" by photography Sandra Canning. Photo by Sandra Canning,
Close-up of the backlit lithopane of “Tree in Key Biscayne” by photography Sandra Canning. Photo by Sandra Canning,

Canning created the lithopanes in collaboration with Prototyping Solutions Inc., one of the largest resellers of Stratasys 3D Printers in North America. Serving businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the staff at Prototyping Solutions helps people choose the right printer, material part, and solution for any 3D printing need.

Close-up of unlit 3D lithopane of photo "Tree in Key Biscayne" by Sandra Canning.
Close-up of unlit 3D lithopane of photo “Tree in Key Biscayne” by Sandra Canning.

The exhibit was entitled “Photography’s Past, Present, and Future as Expressed Through 3D Printing” and represented the inaugural get together of “The Art of 3D Printing” Meetup Group that Canning founded for Miami-area artists. Along with Canning’s 3D printed photography, the September 5th event featured a TED-style talk by engineer/3D-printing pioneer Werner Blumenthal, and “3D-printed selfies” produced by FORGE, a 3D-printing studio based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Canning started The Art of 3D Printing Meetup Group in her quest to learn more about 3D printing and encourage its use in the arts. She recognized that while 3D printing is revolutionizing every aspect of the creative arts, “Photographers have not had much involvement in this movement.” She came across 3D printed lithopanes in her quest to find applications for 3D printing for photographers.

“3D printing was one of those things that had been in my peripheral vision but I never felt any personal connection,” explains Canning. “In May or June of 2014, I was looking for something unique to do with my pictures.” When she started researching 3D printing, she was blown away by the impossible structures being printed in fashion, sculpture, jewelry, architecture, and even bioprinting: “I knew that I was looking at something that was going to change everyday life — not just the creative arts.”

She felt left out when she first tried to find applications of 3D printing for fine-art photographers. Then, she ran across some 3D-printed lithopanes of Yoda and cats, and says, “At that moment I got the bug to create fine-art quality lithopanes inspired by the ones from the 1800s.”

Canning didn’t believe the first 3D printed lithopanes she saw were gallery worthy, so she sought out different services, materials, and methods that would produce a fine-art result.

Prototyping Solutions, Inc in Birmingham, Alabama proved to be the perfect partner for this marriage of art and technology. The team of experts, including Vince Denino and Rixey Kelly, consulted with Canning to produce the parts well within the assigned budget and ahead of schedule.

The lithophanes of Canning’s photos were printed at 16 micron layer height in Vero White on a Stratasys Objet260 Connex 3D printer. Each part took around 30 to 45 minutes to build.

“This 3D printing project has been a great joy to be a part of because it was targeted to a different audience than we are used to,” said Rixey Kelly, Service Engineer at Prototyping Solutions. He said the widgets and gizmos they typically print are artistic enough in their design and function but don’t do much for the soul: “The lithophanes, much like widgets, are ideas that can be printed and then held in your hand. But these uniquely depict a place and moment in time.”

Canning collaborated with a local maker John McNulty ( and his partner to create the backlit frames.

Art of 3D Printing Meetup Group

During the 3D Photo Art exhibit at LMNT, Canning said many visitors said they had never seen anything like it before. She says, “I think most people were surprised that you could 3D print a photo in this way.” They asked plenty of questions about the process, the smoothness of the surface, the cost, and the learning curve.

Canning founded the Meetup group as a way to learn and grow with other who are interested in The Art of 3D Printing. A second event she hosted demonstrated 3D scanning for creating 3D selfies and featured equipment supplied by 3D Systems.

So what’s next for this accomplished photographer who wants to explore the potential of 3D printing?

“Since my journey to learn 3D printing began, I have had a clear picture of the ultimate 3D printed photographic lithopane,” says Sandra. “I am still perfecting those for a future exhibit.” She also has some ideas for 3D printed scultpures and jewelry.


Sandra Canning Photography

Meetup Group: Art of 3D Printing


Autodesk Gallery Exhibits 3D Printed Sculptures by Bruce Beasley

A solo exhibition of Bruce Beasely sculptures is on display at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco until February 7, 2014. What makes the sculptures noteworthy is that they were all output on 3D printers.

Beasley is an internationally known abstract sculptor whose signature bronze sculptures are collected by major museums, including the Pompidou in France, and the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

While Beasley was among the first to legitimize 3D modeling as a way to draw, sketch, and imagine, the “Coriolis” series displayed at the Autodesk Gallery is the first time Beasley used 3D printing to actually “sculpt” his final artwork. After using Autodesk Alias, 3dsMax, and Inventor software to model the works, he used a state-of-the-art 3D printer to build up detailed ribbons of liquid plastic in ascending tiers to bring the designs to life.


“I’ve always held the belief that fine art is the vision of the artist and not defined by the tool of production,” said Bruce Beasley. “These Coriolis works utilize Autodesk technology that best allows me to investigate and communicate what has fascinated me for over sixty years – the aesthetic and emotional potential of complex shapes in space. Computer modeling and 3D printing give me the ability to make sculptures I could not execute in any other way. The creative impulse remains the same whatever tools an artist uses, but it is liberating and exciting to explore a new vocabulary of shapes—part mechanical, part organic— made possible through innovations in technology.”

In 2008, the Autodesk-sponsored Digital Stone Exhibition showcased Beasley and three other sculptors who use 3D software as part of their artistic process. Autodesk chose to partner with Beasley in this solo exhibition to demonstrate their mutual commitment to exploring the rich interactive boundaries between creativity and technology.

“Bruce has always forged a new technological path to further his art and was one of the earliest artists to adopt our design software into his work,” said Carl Bass, Autodesk president and CEO. “His latest Coriolis exhibition further solidifies him as one of the leading masters of revolutionizing fine art sculptural media.”

Bruce Beasley and his Coriolis exhibition will be featured at Autodesk Design Night December 5 at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco.

The Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco celebrates the design process that takes a great idea and turns it into a reality. With more than 20 different exhibits regularly on display, the gallery illustrates the role technology plays in great design and engineering. The Autodesk Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a guided tour at 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday.


Autodesk Gallery

Bruce Beasley


SME to Display Art Created with 3D Printing and Imaging

If you use additive manufacturing, 3D printing, or 3D imaging technologies to create works of art, here is an opportunity to get exposure and recognition for your work.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is seeking submissions for artwork that will be displayed in the Contemporary Art Gallery during the RAPID Additive Manufacturing Solutions Conference and Exposition to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 10-13, 2013.  The deadline for submitting entries is March 4.


“RAPID presents artists familiar with design software and additive manufacturing processes the opportunity to display their work to an appreciative audience, while providing traditional artists the opportunity to explore this new medium and participate in the 3D printing industry,” said SME business development manager Gary Mikola.

To enter, submit renderings in JPG file format along with your credentials and a list of the processes used to create the artwork. Event advisors will select the submissions that will be displayed in the gallery. Preference will be given to artists whose works have already been created using additive technologies. But artists are encouraged to submit works in CAD/STL files because a limited number of entries will be printed by professional additive manufacturing service providers.

All artwork in final form must be durable and stable for display on a 2-foot square surface pedestal. Artwork will be prominently displayed on the RAPID show floor. Artists will receive publicity and promotion in the form of press releases, listings in the printed show directory, online visibility in the RAPID Contemporary Art eGallery and social media marketing.

“This innovative artistic medium will provide an economic boon to the artists themselves, as well as to the additive manufacturing industry as a whole,” Mikola added. Since SME introduced their Contemporary Art Gallery in 2010, more than 50 works of art have been displayed.


Artists are using additive manufacturing, 3D printing and 3D imaging technologies to create dimensional art with complex patterns and geometries.  First, they use CAD software to create digital models of their work. The CAD files are converted into a 3D-printable STL file format that is then transferred to a 3D printing / additive manufacturing machine.

The machine outputs different materials onto a platform, building cross sections one layer at a time. Each layer corresponds with the virtual cross-section of the artists’ CAD file to create the final work of art. (For an example, see the post: Portrait Sculptures Created with 3D Printing )

The RAPID Additive Manufacturing Solutions Conference and Exposition is North America’s definitive event featuring 3D imaging and 3D printing technologies. The expo attracts buyers, sellers and end-users of design, prototyping, tooling and direct digital technologies. RAPID is produced by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the premiere source for manufacturing knowledge, education, and networking.


RAPID Additive Manufacturing Solutions Conference

What Is Additive Manufacturing?


Portrait Sculptures Created with 3D Printing


3D Pavement Art Depicts Vastness of Grand Canyon

If you will be traveling near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon this summer, stop by the National Geographic Visitor Center and be photographed with the 3D pavement print created by Kurt Wenner.

Entitled “Grand Canyon Illusion,” the piece is a visual mind and eye puzzle that conveys the vastness of the canyon. Visitors are encouraged to “complete the art” by stepping into it and being photographed. In the photo, you will appear to be perched on an outcrop high above the Canyon floor.

“It’s a sunrise idea –the colors need to be at the surface of the illusion,” said artist Kurt Wenner. “The thousands of different colors make it so momentous.” Within a 15-foot span, the transitions in the art provide a journey for the eye, one that is as smooth as possible. As he puts it, “You’re trying to reach to infinity.”

It is the first Kurt Wenner permanent 3D illusion composition to be exhibited in North America.

Wenner’s large-scale drawing process involves a form of perspective known as anamorphism, a technique that several great artists first used during the Renaissance to develop illusion in art. These artists used the technique to depict soaring architecture, floating figures, and dreamscapes on massively large ceiling frescoes.

By combining elements of this classic Renaissance art with traditional street painting techniques, Wenner gave birth to a new art form called anamorphic or 3D pavement art. Audiences can not only ‘view’ Wenner’s art, but also ‘interact’ with compositions that appear to rise from the ground or fall into it.

“We are delighted to have visitors from all around the world interacting in and learning from Kurt Wenner’s 3D Grand Canyon Illusion here in our courtyard,” said Janet Rosener, Director of the National Geographic Visitor Center. “Through the magic of Wenner’s fine art, we aim to give our visitors a higher level of understanding and appreciation for this special place and to help them get the most out of their vacation at the Grand Canyon.”Nature Valley® is the presenting sponsor of Kurt Wenner’s Grand Canyon 3D artwork.

“Kurt first came to our attention through a National Geographic documentary, Masterpieces in Chalk, filmed in 1987,” said Robert S. Perkins, Chief Executive Officer of Destination Cinema, the National Geographic Visitor Center’s parent company. “We would like to suggest that, when visitors come to experience the Grand Canyon, they should take the opportunity to see the artwork of Kurt Wenner, a man many consider a natural wonder of the art world.”

The National Geographic Visitor Center is located on highway 64, one mile south of the South Rim entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. The center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. March 1 to October 31 and from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. November 1 to February 28.


National Geographic Visitor Center: Grand Canyon


Kurt Wenner Grand Canyon Installation


Portrait Sculptures Created with 3D Printing

The Ponoko blog features an interview with Chicago-based digital artist Sophie Kahn who has been experimenting with full-color 3D printing to create portrait sculptures that look like unearthed ancient artifacts.

According to the post, Sophie originally perceived 3D scanning and 3D printing as post-photographic processes. Now she is incorporating 3D printing into the creation stages of her work. For example, she has experimented with using a 3D printer to output a model from a 3D laser scan and photograph of a live model. The 3D model is sandblasted and sanded to create the look Kahn wants.

“Laura RGB” by Sophie Kahn,

“What fascinates me about 3D scanning is the way it reveals the incompleteness of our own vision. Many of the holes and gaps in my sculptures are due to occlusion: the parts of the face that are hidden from view at any one time,” explains Kahn.  “My sculptures can look complete from one angle and very incomplete from another. I’m also interested in the art-historical resonances in technology, like the fact that 3D scans can look like fragmented classical sculptures, or plaster death masks, for example. I’m trying to make a connection between the digital and the handmade object.”

The work shown here, entitled “Laura RGB” was featured in the “Improbable Objects” exhibition of works by artists who are who using 3D scanning and printing technologies as part of their processes. The exhibition was held in April at the What It Is gallery in Chicago.

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Ponoko Blog Post: Portrait Sculpture, an Artistic Tradition Carried on with 3D Printing

Artist Sophie Kahn

Sophie Kahn’s Process

Improbable Objects at What It Is gallery

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