April 26, 2012

London-based design consultancy Johnson Banks have collaborated with Ravensbourne College design a "three-dimensional alphabet of alphabets", the Arkitypo project.

The project came about when Ravensbourne, one of clients of Johnson Banks asked if they were interested in developing a research project to test and showcase the in-house 3D prototyping skills and technology.

The idea was to 3D-print alphabet of the 26 letters of the English alphabet derived from the history of typefaces. Johnson Bank did the research of each letter and developed concept drawings and 3D renderings. Ravensbourne, the UK-based digital media university further developed the 3D models before the test prints. The designs were done in 3D programmes like SketchUp, and then Ravensbourne's 3D team use a combination of Solidworks, Rhino, Autocad and 3D studio max to create prototypes. Finally two of in-house 3D printers with similar build volumes were used to complete the project: a dimensions Uprint and a ZCorp 450.

It took them over six months to complete the "Arkitypo" project. Each letter and the typeface is unique, and each pieces encapsulates a bit of the history of the typeface: for example, the letter F is from a German typeface called Fraktur, and the letter is extruded from a map of West Germany. The letter "A" represents Aksidenz Grotesk, a forerunner of the popular font Helvetica -"For this design a condensed weight is 'fractalized,' turning a grotesque into a thing of beauty."

Some letters were easier than others, said Michael Johnson, creative director of Johnson Banks. "The first dozen or so came quickly. Some were much harder -- either to find an interesting alphabet beginning with 'X' (say), or to find an idea that looked as good in 3D as it did in our heads! We were initially simply drawn to the idea of doing type in three dimensions, and our first experiments were aesthetically driven. But then we became more interested in each letter telling the 'story' of its alphabet -- so the Courier 'C' is built from typewriter keys, the 'D' is built from DIN, often used for city signage, and so on."

The whole alphabet can be viewed on Johnson Bank's website and in Ravensbourne College where they are now permanently installed and exhibited for the public.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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