By Mark Waller, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
The emerging technology of 3D printing might take more forms than people widely understand. New Orleans native and technology executive Hugh Evans says the city could seize on the technology to become a hub for printing food, printing biological tissue for medical treatment, printing ceramics in arts and crafts and printing parts for the oil and gas industry.
Evans spoke at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week during a showcase on 3D printing Thursday, where he described possibilities in the field and helped announce winners of a New Orleans Museum of Art contest for 3D printed creative designs. He is a Baltimore resident who serves as vice president of corporate development and ventures at 3D Systems, which invented the technology and is the largest company in the industry, based in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Evans described how GE is using 3D printing to make parts for a jet engine with improved fuel efficiency. He talked about its use or potential use in making cell phones, space drones and prosthetic limbs. He talked about the possibility of 3D printers recycling plastic bottles by transforming their materials into other objects. He talked about retail 3D printing storefronts already operating in some major cities, where people can take their designs to get 3D objects made. He said he expects that type of service soon will enter New Orleans.
“It’s all intellectually stimulating,” he said. “So that’s why I say every day for me is an adventure.”
Even the potential complications present a fascinating intellectual exercise. If someone uses a cell phone scanner on an object – and that is coming, Evans said – to submit the dimensions of the object and make a 3D print of the physical shape of a commercial product, does that violate copyright laws?
“Some say yes; Some say no,” Evans said.
“The lawyers are going to make a lot of money. It’s thorny.”
At the conclusion of his talk, he was joined by Susan Taylor, director of the New Orleans Museum of Art, and Tim Williamson, chief executive of The Idea Village organization that runs Entrepreneur Week, to announce 3D designs the museum will display after an application and judging process held in conjunction with Entrepreneur Week.
“This is something that has captured the imagination of artists all over the country,” Taylor said.
An honorable mention went to a 3D printed horse submitted by a fourth grade student. Second place was a tie between a 3D printed bikini and an intricate sculpture with a skull shape at its center. The top winner was a 3D printed representation of the shapes of sound waves, which resemble seashells.
The sound waves sculpture came from New Orleans architect Shea Trahan, who said the idea started with him thinking about designs for meditation spaces. It is based on mapping of how sound waves move through space.
Someday, he said, he would like to see a full-scale building based on the shapes, for meditation, therapeutic, performance hall or other uses. He said he hopes attention from the contest will help him find others interested in the project.
“Hopefully my work can find someone who has a use for it,” Trahan said.
With their shell shapes, the sound wave models he 3D printed had surprising structural integrity, Trahan said. Getting a similar, large-scale structure to stand, he said, clearly would require engineering.
Frances Guevara, who designed the 3D printed bikini, said she is grateful the technique is gaining attention in New Orleans.
“I don’t want to have to fly to New York every time I have to show my work,” she said. “I’m just excited that NOMA and New Orleans is going to embrace this new technology.”
Guevara said she wants to continue working with 3D printing and fashion. Ultimately, she said, the technology could allow people to print their own clothes at home, with every item perfectly tailored to every individual’s measurements.
The event’s youngest winner with the horse sculpture was Ava Hankins. Its other recognized artist team with the skull design included Richard Goodard and Dan Miller.
“It’s remarkable to see a New Orleanian who moved away and is coming back here to talk about this,” Williamson said about Evans. And, he argued New Orleans can become a center for 3D printing.