As far as art goes, the 3D printer has mostly been used as a precision tool for creating copies of hyper-valuable paintings—just see today's story about printing perfect Vermeer replicas for reference. But there are also plenty of artists experimenting with 3D printing on more creative terms—and at this year's New York Maker Faire, visitors got to see a few examples up close.

Shane Hope, a Brooklyn artist whom we wrote about last spring, was on hand at the New York Hall of Science in Queens this weekend to show off several new paintings—each created using the 3D printer as his primary tool. Hope used a homemade RepRap printer to fabricate the works, which took anywhere from a week to a month to complete.

In truth, "printing" is a bit of a misnomer for the way Hope uses the RepRap. It's more like knitting or weaving using liquid plastic instead of yarn: He begins by creating 3D models of molecular structures, then prints them onto his canvases using a mixture of acrylic and pigments, creating a watercolor landscape of intricately detailed textures. Though each pattern is based on an existing molecule, Hope describes his work as anything but scientific. "Doing science proper I am not," he explains. "I’m repurposing the representational rubrics of molecular visualization just enough to relay to viewers a sense of how hacking matter happens."

How does Hope feel about the recent hype surrounding 3D printing as a revolutionary consumer technology? "Some rapid prototyping pundits promise content-to-print solutions, on-demand means of increasingly customizable production and refer to it as an “abundance” technology," he writes warily. "I myself am relatively over the folk psychological novelty of 3D printing for its own sake." In other words, don't call it 3D-printed art—it's art that happens to be made with a 3D printer. [Shane Hope]