Impossible art: Mindbending, 3-D printed masterpieces

Updated 9:05 AM ET, Tue January 28, 2014
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3-D printers deposit material layer by layer to create a solid object, as in this dramatic headpiece by Joshua Harker. In the past each of the elements would have been crafted separately and then pieced together. 3-D printing simplifies the process and prints the work in one go. JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
Dutch designer Iris van Herpen was one of the first fashion designers to use 3-D printing to create clothes and accessories. The technology allows for intricate designs, like this Van Herpen skeletal dress. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Image
Forget tape measures. Designers can now scan your body and print made-to-measure clothing. In March Shapeways, a 3-D printing company, produced this nylon mesh gown for burlesque star Dita von Teese. As printers begin working with a greater variety of materials, they anticipate the fashionistas to come running. Courtesy of Shapeways
Architect Bradley Rothenberg dreamed up this corset with matching wings for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2013. The incredibly detailed snowflakes could not be fabricated by hand because that would require additional support materials to hold it all together Bradley Rothenberg Studio
Rothenberg 3-D scanned Lindsay Ellingson's body to ensure a perfect fit. Swarovski made her sparkle with thousands of crystals. Eli Schmidt
German artist Tobias Klein used MRI images of his own body to create Inversive Embodiment. The 3-D printed work combines the architecture of St. Paul's Cathedral with a model of his own heart. Ute Klein
South African artist Michaella Janse van Vuuren says this intricate puppet could not have been made by hand. "The Horse Marionette has fully functional joints and movable wings," she says. "All the horse's parts have been placed in the same digital file so no assembly is required afterward. When strung up the horse comes to life." Science Museum/Michaella Janse Van Vurren
Belgian artist Nick Ervnck drew inspiration from imagery of human organs found in medical manuals when designing this creepy bust called AGRIEBORZ. He drew the design, which invokes nerves and blood vessels, manually on the computer. It took more than 800 sketches to achieve this sci-fi result. Courtesy of Nick Ervinck
Working with Fujifilm, the Van Gogh Museum has created 3-D printed reproductions—called "Relievos"—of five masterpieces. This "Sunflowers" Relievo captures the direction and relief of Van Gogh's brushstrokes, and its 32 shades of yellow. The museum sells the reproductions for €25,000 each, or about $34,000. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
The Relievos include the frame and backside of each painting, which is usually not visible during exhibitions. The backside of Van Gogh's "Almond blossom" includes stickers from various museums that have borrowed the work. "This way people can see the history of the painting," says Milou Halbesma, the head of public affairs at the museum. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Researchers at Holland's Delft University of Technology developed a scanning system that allows them to capture the natural cracks and ridges of paintings. Working with Canon and the Rijksmuseum, they 3-D printed this reproduction of Rembrandt's "The Jewish Bride." Tim Zaman
Iris van Herpen and architect Rem D Koolhaas collaborated to create 3-D-printed shoes that resemble tree roots. The intricate lattices that wrap around the foot would not have been possible without 3-D printing. As Koolhaas says: "They are almost like a sculpture on your feet." MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
These "Nu" bracelets by Invisible Light Network are inspired by sound. Nu uses audio analysis to determine key aspects of a song -- such as beat intensity, length, and rythmic complexity -- which it then translates into folds, rings and other details. Designs are printed in 3-D using a variety of materials, including UV cured acrylic polymer and nylon. Courtesy of Invisible Light Network
3-D printing technology allows artists to breathe new life into 2-D works sketched by others. Bernat Cuni takes children's drawings -- think neon dinosaurs and devious kittens -- and blows them up like balloons using computer software. A 3-D printer then produces her 'crayon creatures.' Bernat Cuni
Consumers with a 3- D printer can now print their own accessories right at home. Nervous System, a design studio in Boston, has released a jewelry collection and accompanying app for desktop 3-D printers. A hinge mechanism in the design means no assembly is required. Nervous System
3-D printed dresses can be beautiful, but often seem impractical. For instance, this Pia Hinze dress resembles a haute couture shield rather than something a woman would actually wear on a night out. JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
The artist Cosmo Wenman created the first-ever publicly available 3-D prints of the sculptures Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. "This technological moment will reverberate in our art for thousands of years," Wenman wrote on his web site. They were made with an inexpensive, consumer-grade 3-D printer and cost around $5 each to produce. Courtesy of Cosmo Wenman
Designer Liz Ciokajlo believes natural materials, including coconut husks, hemp and flax, can be utilized in the 3-D printing process. She 3-D printed molds for these shoes and then wrapped them in natural fibers. As she says: "3-D print has the potential to address economic and sustainable issues the footwear industry is facing." Courtesy of Liz Ciokajlo
London-based designer Silvia Weidenbach created this necklace using 3-D printing techniques. "I combine new technologies with traditional artisan, craft skills and it is through my understanding and use of both that I discovers new forms of expression," she says. Courtesy of Silvia Weidenbach/Thomas Rydin
"At the beginning, I was very suspicious of 3D printing" says designer Marla Marchant. "Only when I saw the first pieces I realized the accuracy of small detail and unlimited possibilities." Her interest led to these futuristic heels. Courtesy of Marla Marchant