Additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing or rapid prototyping, is a technique that operates by “building an object layer by individual layer in a single process. Some 3-D printers pipe melted plastic through a nozzle in a process called fused deposition modeling (FDM); higher-tech methods, like stereolithography (SLA) run lasers through a vat of powdered material — metals, nylons, concretes — solidifying anything they touch; and then there's selective laser sintering (SLS), which similarly runs a laser through a resin and solidifies it into a single object by binding each layer together. All of these allow for the creation of extraordinary complex designs with extraordinary ease for the average person.” (artINFO).
The particular process (or processes) of additive manufacturing is not only redefining our access to manufactured objects, but how we relate to them. This medium is proving to be widely popular among designers and skilled artists who utilize the platform to keep their production consistent and designs unique. This method allows for prototyping to be efficient, while allowing for a more creative output. You can scan a mold or design, and revise the desired item in no time using multiple programs that enable the creation to come to fruition more quickly, efficiently, and cheaply than the traditional method.
As an example, there is a company called Shapeways that manufactures designs on the designers’ behalf. The designer can experiment with multiple materials with little waste and decide what they like before they go ahead with the production. Because objects are only created once they've been bought, there's little investment on the designer's part and almost no waste on the manufacturer's.
.MGX, a creative division of Materialise, which manufactures high end designs, has worked with Frank Stella, and assisted with highly imaginative Victoria and Albert Museum exhibitions, proving that the art world is taking notice of the method and utilizing it for their production goals. There is still a long ways to go before the process is widely used and flaw free as the technology is ever evolving, but the possibilities for its use by artists in the design and production of their work is changing the face of modern art, here and now, and will continue to do so in the future.
Information was obtained from Wikipedia and ArtINFO’s article “Redesigning Reality: How 3-D Printing Is Shaping the Future of Art, Engineering, and Everything” by Janelle Zara.