RCBI Makes Art Accessible with 3D Printing Technology

Nov. 11, 2014

HUNTINGTON — A partnership between the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) and the Huntington Museum of Art is helping make art more accessible to visually impaired visitors to the museum.

A new exhibit at the museum features work by Dr. Stephanie Skolik, a Huntington ophthalmologist who considered a career in art before ultimately choosing medicine. The exhibit — “Inner and Outer Vision: The Paintings of Stephanie A. Skolik, M.D.” — includes 60 pieces by the artist in variety of media and styles.

Skolik wants her work to be accessible to everyone, so the exhibit was designed to be experienced through different senses. Visitors can listen to descriptions about the artwork and read about them through Braille labels. In addition, visitors can experience the artwork through a series of “reliefs,” or raised images on tablets that depict the images in the painting. While most of the reliefs were made of clay, one was produced by RCBI on a 3D Printer at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Huntington.

RCBI partnered with the museum and the artist in the summer 2014 to develop the relief. Working from a photograph of the painting “Joy of Love,” RCBI Design Engineer Ron Cabacar developed a computer design of the piece. Using the digital design, a 3D Printer then produced the relief from a resin material. The relief, measuring 9 inches long and 7 inches wide, features a raised image of the one in the painting.

Charlotte Weber, Director & CEO of RCBI, says she is pleased to help Skolik expand her visual art form. “From 3D-printing the designs sketched by artists to production of personalized patient care devices, the scope of 3D Printing is flourishing,” Weber said. “RCBI is excited to help expand the canvas of artists and painters.”

Katherine Cox, the education director of the Huntington Museum of Art, said the 3D printed relief gives a person who is blind or visually impaired a sense of what Skolik’s piece looks like.

“It is really true to the painting. If you are visually impaired, you have to rely on your other senses. With this, you can feel it.”

The exhibit also features more than a dozen clay reliefs that were created by the artist herself with the help of Kathleen Kneafsey, a potter who serves as the museum’s artist-in-residence. In October, Kneafsey participated in RCBI’s inaugural West Virginia Makes Festival as part of national Manufacturing Day.

The exhibit at the Huntington Museum of Art runs through Jan. 25.  

As West Virginia’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, RCBI encourages job creation, economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting manufacturing technology. RCBI offers access to leading-edge equipment and specialized training for everyone from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 companies so they can remain at the forefront of innovation in an increasingly global economy.