Aug 7, 2015 | By Alec

A 3D printed representation of the world's biggest companies.

At its heart, 3D printing is about turning digital data into physical, tangible models, but one German artist has been interpreting that in a completely different way than most of us do. Instead of relying on digital models like us, Volker Schweisfurth has been applying the same principles to actual numerical data, from lists as diverse as the world’s population to the global turnover of mayor companies, and turning that into 3D printed representations. These 3D Data Sculptures are extremely comprehensible and insightful overviews that, like excel graphs in the nineties, could do wonders for interpreting data.

To bring these interesting models to the people, Volker Schweisfurth has begun the startup MeliesArt, which sells these fascinating 3D printed creations on platforms including Sculpteo and Shapeways. And as can be said for so many good ideas, the concept for 3D Data Sculptures was born when adopting a different perspective on his own life. ‘My background is in engineering and economics, and I have given lots of speeches and presentations on these two topics. Actually I still do. Presentations, visualizations and consultations; I’ve done them all, but in my time doing that I realized how low the retention rate is,’ Schweisfurth explains in a recent interview. ‘Most of the statistical data that we read on a weekly basis doesn’t really stick with us, we usually forget more than half of it. So about 3 years ago I decided to use 3D Printing to make digital data tangible, so that it can accompany PowerPoint slides or any other presentations.’

The German artists went on to explain that his approach is just another interpretation of the digital-to-reality path that 3D printers offer us. ‘Until now, online services were focused primarily on creating objects for industries that are deeply rooted in everyday life like miniatures, figurines, jewelry. But the meta-world of data was largely ignored,’ he says.

European Population and income per capita 2012

And that’s unfortunate, as the availability of meta data is every expanding, so we require new ways of looking at and using that data. Giving the example of presentations in meetings, he argues that information and results can be interpreted in a variety of ways. ‘Clear and concise data representation is important when it comes to all interpretation styles. A 3D representation offers the ability to really knock home a certain data set with everyone that will see it,’ he argues. And that is definitely an excellent point, for nothing quite brings home the realization of declining profits as a model that can be held in your hand.

A silver 3D printed representation of the world's population by 2050.

What’s more, it opens up entire ways of looking at long-term data as well, enabling realizations that you would otherwise never experience. ‘People probably will not go rummaging through the internet looking to find a report from the World Bank about population estimations in 2050, they may never realize that the population of China will be quickly passed by that of India!’ he says as an example. ‘This kind of data is easy to map in color on a 3D model and the precision of the print can display the differences between man and women with an accuracy of 1-2mm between heights,’ he says.

World population rendering

These interesting models were made with the same modeling software Schweisfurth used when working as an engineer. ‘One of the biggest challenges for me is that most 3D modelling software was originally created for movies and rendering. In order to get the desired outcome with my models I need to toggle between many different software systems. There are some essential assets on the Sculpteo site that have made the process a bit easier, particularly the solidity check tool, and the 3D printing dossier,’ he says about the experience. The models are subsequently available to 3D print through either Sculpteo or Shapeways, with multicolored printing offering another aesthetic dimension.

Left: the public debt rates of German states. Right: the rising median age in Germany by the year 2030.

The German artist is hopeful that these models will soon find their ways into board rooms and consultancy firms everywhere, something that is definitely stimulated by easier and more accessible software options for transforming meta data into 3D models. Schweisfurth is also already looking into new materials, surface options and quicker 3D printing. ‘I’ve been looking forward to applying more surface texture to my artistic data displays, I’m able now to apply font, colors and height but texture would help for the visually impaired. Some really great things are taking place regarding haptic surfaces, and I’m exploring those options,’ he adds.

While there is currently no option for sending data to Schweisfurth to transform into 3D models, that will hopefully become available in the near future. However, you can already order from his existing range of 3D prints from Sculpteo or Shapeways, with each model costing somewhere in the range of 30 to 500 euros, depending on the material used (with silver being the most expensive).



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive