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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 18, 2017

3D printing: Of signs and objects

  • John Perkins-Buzo EMAIL logo
From the journal Semiotica


3D printing has surely come of age. Widely available, and integrated into many computer-based design and animation curricula, it almost seems to have become a simple extension of what we already had in 2D printing. A 2D image (e.g., of a pipe) acts as the basis of a sign, which, perhaps upon further twists of the semiotic spiral, may lead one to cognition of a 3D physical pipe. But then, perhaps not. And only in a rare case would the physical pipe in turn find use as a sign of the aforesaid 2D image. With 3D printing, this order of semiosis no longer applies. Since 3D printing mainly occurs as a non-mass-production manufacturing technique, a 3D-printed artifact acts as a physical object – and generally it is printed to act precisely in that manner. It is a being that has an ontic difference from its digital source. The case of 3D printing provides an intriguing, complex, case study for semiosis, since the printables move in and out of the virtual and physical.


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Published Online: 2017-8-18
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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