3D printing company Makelab teamed up with Roc Nation to make an eco-friendly plaque for Jaden Smith after his single "Icon" went platinum
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3D printing company Makelab teamed up with Roc Nation to make an eco-friendly plaque for Jaden Smith after his single “Icon” went platinum

3D printing company Makelab teamed up with Roc Nation to make an eco-friendly plaque for Jaden Smith after his single “Icon” went platinum

Along with being an American rapper, actor, and entrepreneur, Jaden Smith is also quite the environmentalist. From designing sustainable water bottles to denim jeans, Smith has used his platform and creativity to focus on the environment. Naturally, Roc Nation wanted to ensure even his plaque was sustainable when Smith received RIAA Platinum Certification for his single “Icon”. So, they decided to turn to 3D printing.

To learn more about the project, I spoke with Eli Velez, Roc Nation’s Creative Consultant who was responsible for directing the design of the plaque, and Christina Perla, CEO of Brookly-based 3D printing startup Makelab, which ultimately materialized the product.

Why does 3D printing matter in the music industry?

Christina Perla and Manny Mota, co-founders of 3D printing startup Makelab
Christina Perla and Manny Mota, co-founders of 3D printing startup Makelab

With 3D printing, biodegradable materials like sandstone and PLA can be used to manufacture tangible promotional swag. From branded merchandise to awards and plaques, 3D printing can get the job done.

“3D printing’s strength is mass customization, which is an oxymoron. Because typically, mass customization is a financial and logistical nightmare,” Perla told me. “Being that the entertainment and music industry moves so quickly, it’s a perfect match!”

Plus, compared to more traditional methods, like mold making, “mass customization” is typically far more time consuming and have a higher initial cost. On the other hand, Perla added that it’s a lot less wasteful than some modern manufacturing methods. With 3D printing, only the amount of material needed is used to print. Unused material is recycled back into the printer for its next use.

However, there are obviously still some drawbacks. 3D printing still isn’t quite ready for mass production and it’s fairly costly. Additionally, it can be limiting when it comes to customizable options like color and material.

Despite its setbacks, 3D printing is growing even more popular across the world. In fact, in Dubai, they’re putting full faith in this inventive tech. Back in November, major city committed to having 25% of all new buildings be 3D printed. It hopes to reach this goal as early as 2025.

How Jaden Smith’s plaque was made using 3D printing

Behind the scenes look of how this plaque was created after a 15-hour 3D printing process | Credit: Mat+Kat

Typically, the 3D printing process can take anywhere from 5-15 hours. For this elaborate print, it took roughly 15 hours. According to Perla, a project like this would cost you around $2,000-$2,500.

Creating this 3D print was a two-step process. First, it required Makelab to convert Smith’s album artwork into a 3D CAD (computer-aided design) model. This CAD model told the 3D printer what to “print” and in what color. For this plaque, Makelab used ColorJet Printing and sandstone. Then, the 3D printer prints the plaque until it’s fully formed. It does this layer by layer.

Velez says the point of this project was to “expose and inspire people within the industry to explore and establish a relationship with new technologies, materials, and methods.”

This, he says, will not only lead to innovative new collaborations, but inspire people to think about their own impact on the environment. The goal is to keep sustainability in the conversation until it becomes “second nature.”

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Making room for sustainability in the music industry

Final look of Makelab’s sustainable, 3D-printed plaque | Credit: Mat+Kat

When it comes to the music industry, what the billboards aren’t telling you is how unsustainable it can be. Especially when it comes to single-use merchandise or touring, they have the potential to be environmentally disastrous.

However, just like Smith, more artists have taken note and are pledging to create positive environmental change. For instance, Coldplay made headlines earlier this year after announcing the band won’t be traveling again until concerts can be “actively beneficial” for the environment. To reduce their carbon footprint, other creative minds have also thought of ways to make the music industry’s practices more eco-friendly.

Whether it’s by printing booklets using soy-based ink or powering recording studios with solar-based energy, one thing is for sure — there are a variety of ways to make the music business more environmentally-conscious.

And for Roc Nation in particular, Velez says that 3D printing Smith’s plaque was “just the first step.”

“To me, this project represents the democratization of knowledge through the merging of two industries. Hopefully other kids will see this and feel inspired to go out there and start making something or learning a new skill set,” he said. “This is for anyone sitting in their house trying to figure out how to get their ideas out…Google is your north star. Let your curiosity lead you.”

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