3D printing is unique in its ability to create incredibly complex shapes in a single pass. Additive manufacturing by its very nature can bring about a more creative way of thinking due to the freedom that it allows. Perhaps this is what creates an environment that brings large numbers of artists and other creative engineers to use 3D printing to accomplish their goals. It also has brought an influx of special effects, and illusionists, who use the special properties of 3D printing to create shapes and devices that are deceptive of their complexity.
Earlier this month, the internet was taken by storm by a video illusion with an object that seemed to show different shapes in its reflection. You can see the video above, and understandably everyone was scratching their heads trying to understand what trickery was being used to create it. The answer came from the YouTube channel Make Anything, who explained that these “Ambiguous Cylinders” aren’t really cylinders at all, but are instead totally different shapes that have been 3D printed to resemble cylinders or squares from different angles, and that the mirror is using forced perspective to change how we see the object.
Another 3D printed illusion is the blooming zoetrope sculptures from artist John Edmarks. Upon first look, it may appear that the video is using CG or some other form of animation to create the impossible looking transformations. In reality, the 3D printed shapes are being rotated at high speeds, and then recorded on a camera that is synchronized with the rotation. This creates the “blooming” effect, which makes the objects appear to be unfolding within themselves. These illusions are some of the many ways that 3D printing continues to inspire innovation throughout the world; creating other clever and bizarre ideas to thrill even the cleverest of skeptics.