After a three-year closure for renovation, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, on Manhattan's Upper East Side has reopened its doors today, and 3D Systems is thrilled to support the museum as part of its new immersive 3D printing experiences, installations and displays. The nation’s only museum devoted exclusively to both historic and contemporary design, the Cooper Hewitt’s new setup showcases 3D printing as a fundamental and increasingly transformative element in the ideation, development and fabrication processes of the modern design world. And to kick things off, we came bearing 3D printed scissors to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. 

3D printing factors into several of Cooper Hewitt’s key exhibits, including “Beautiful Users,” “Tools,” and the “Process Lab,” each of which fosters an interactive experience that draws visitors into the design process to help them see the power of design and its capability to solve real world problems. Among 3DS’ contributions are a beautiful bespoke guitar and structurally optimized skateboard, as well as new age prosthetics that demonstrate how 3D scanning, cloud-based modeling and 3D printing (the core trifecta of the digital thread) offer powerful potential to address complex and unmet needs. The tremendous potential of 3D technology lies in its exceptional dissemination through software and its ability to meet real human needs through physical production. It’s little wonder its place in design and production is growing so rapidly.

Visitors can also see the remarkable strides society is making with bionics and 3D printing’s contributions to that effort through 3DS’ collaboration with Ekso Bionics to create 3D printed interstitial parts to connect the human body to a robotic structure in a natural and highly personalized way. The remarkable exosuit created for Amanda Boxtel is assisting her physical therapy after a skiing accident left her paralyzed for 22 years. The exhibit and these pieces illuminate the role of 3D printing and design in medicine and show a promising forecast for the future.

In the “Tools” exhibit, visitors can see one of 3DS’ ProJet® 6000 SLA 3D printers and a transparent Touch 3D haptic stylus, a tool that allows users to get hands on with digital design by providing physical feedback in a virtual space. Using the Touch, designers can ‘feel’ the contours of their virtual CAD designs before they ever take them off-screen. This capability fortifies the role of intuition in the artistic process, tying together the virtual and actual with a digital thread. The clear casing of this particular Touch also demonstrates how 3D printing can be used during product creation by allowing the designer to print clear parts overnight to give them a window into the product they are creating to gain insights and gather feedback on their work. This is especially relevant when developing a complex, kinematic device like the Touch. The ProJet 6000 allows users to witness the first ever 3D printing process, stereolithography, which was invented in 1984 by our founder and Chief Technology Officer, Chuck Hull.

And don’t forget! If you aren’t local to New York and have no visits to the Big Apple on the horizon, you can still interact with the Cooper Hewitt by downloading a free 3D printable file of the Andrew Carnegie mansion where the museum is housed. A team of 3DS scanners and digital artists helped transform real world lidar scanner captures into data sets for 3D visualizations and 3D printable files using our Geomagic Solutions software. Digital access to the Carnegie Mansion allows the building to preserve its history while linking it to the future. Click here to find out more about the scan process, or download the data here.

For more information about the Cooper Hewitt’s exhibits and museum hours, visit: