Emerging Objects 3D prints Utah Teapot Set out of instant tea

Emerging Objects 3D prints Utah Teapot Set out of instant tea

While many of the most exciting developments in 3D printing are actual 3D printed objects themselves, it’s amazing to see just how much the digital fabrication process is capable of just by simply changing a material type.

For the independent, Bay Area-based “MAKE-tank” Emerging Objects, this one of the main attributes of additive manufacturing that they choose to focus on.

“Our innovation lies in our unique approach to materials and sizes and our belief that 3D printing is the medium where good ideas become real,” the MAKE-tank says on their website.  

...and they’re not kidding when they talk about making “good ideas become real”.  

Most recently, the design and material science team at Emerging Objects (led by Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael) picked a rather unusual material to 3D print with: instant tea.  It’s fitting that the MAKE-tank chose to use the self-referential Utah Teapot as their digital 3d printed model, too.  

The Utah Teapot (also known as the Newell Teapot) is an iconic digital model that comes shipped with many CAD programs to be used as a sample model.  It was one of the first 3D models ever created when it was drafted in 1975 by computer graphics researcher Martin Newell.  

Some have even considered the primitive shape to be the equivalent of a “hello, world” program - the most basic of computer programming - as a way to create an easy 3D scene with a model acting as the basic geometry reference for an environment and light setup.

“While one might consider ceramic the obvious material for 3D printing the Utah Teapot, we have chosen instead to 3D print it out of actual tea,” said Emerging Objects.  

“This means the Utah Tea Set, which includes tea cups also 3D printed out of tea, is doubly, characteristically self referential — meta — and then meta again.”

In addition to the teapot and matching tea cups, Emerging Objects also 3D printed teaspoons out of the tea material that are the exact volume of a single teaspoon - 5 cubic centimeters.

While this is certainly one of the more innovative and interesting takes on 3D modeling history that we’ve seen in awhile, it’s not the first time that the Utah Teapot has been brought into the physical world from it's digital model state.


Back in 2009, the design studio Unfold also created a Utah Teapot - the ceramic Utanalog - which featured the iconic teapot’s shape simplified into a faceted design based off of a mathematical model.  According to the studio, the objective of the Utanalog was to “return the iconographic teapot to its roots as a piece of functional dishware while showing its status as an icon of the digital world.”

For those who might wish to create their own Utah Teapot, Unfold uploaded a 3D model to Thingiversethat is optimized for most 3D printers.   


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