Text Turned to Sculpture with 3D Printing
Kyle Maxey posted on June 05, 2013 |
3d printing, sculpture, alphanumeric, text, northeastern, university,Janos Stone, a visiting scholar at Northeastern University, is turning alpha numeric text to sculpture in an effort to explore how information can be stored as “physical 3D printed objects”.

Initially conceived as a project that transformed email addresses into 3D printed objects (Mecube), Stone’s vision for what type of information could be turned into 3D objects blossomed. Because of Mecube’s initial success, Nathan Felde, chair of Art and Design at Northeastern University, contacted Stone and extended an offer to further develop his design as a visiting scholar at the university.

While at Northeastern, Stone began collaborating with a group of math PhD students, and through their joint work, an algorithm that sorted alphanumeric text information into corresponding shapes was born.  Renamed ANA (Alpha Numeric Avatars), Stone and his team decided to show their work to the public through “an interactive website driven by [their] algorithmic engine that transforms typed alphanumeric text into 3D printable objects.”

Generating an ANA object is simple. Once on the ANA website, you simply type any character on your keyboard (A-Z, 0-9), and a corresponding color shape is stacked onto a hexagonal central mast. Once you’re done, you can grab your object and view it in all of its 3D glory.

Stone believes that in the future his work could lead to more complex algorithms that could handle sorting through massive data sets. If a more rigorous algorithm could be used, researchers might be able to locate patterns in large datasets by simply viewing their corresponding printed pattern. In addition, Stone believes “that it is likely that physical reinterpretations of normally “invisible” information will reveal new and important ways of looking at the connections between our digital environment and ourselves.”

Regardless of its future applications, the current iteration of Stone’s project makes some pretty cool objects.

For the time being, Stone is using the ANA website to collect users input, generating a vast pool of alphanumeric sets to be printed in his lab. As of this writing, there is no way to export your design so that you can print it. I image that feature be coming shortly.

Give Stone's ANA Project a try at the Website.

Images Courtesy of ANA

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