James Bridle

James Bridle is difficult to categorise. By his own admission, he is a number of things. He is a prolific writer and commentator about the nature and future of publishing. As an artist and technologist, his work examines the intersections between literature, technology and culture and is presented in forums both online and offline.  He has exhibited his work in the UK, and internationally including The Netherlands, USA, Switzerland, France and China.


The brief for all the contributors to CONTAINER #1: Hot&Cold was "Come up with an object around the idea of Hot & Cold or Hot or Cold". James Bridle produced an item called GPS, which is a 3D printed model of the Earth's GPS satellite network. Here he explains why.


Three-dimensional model of the earth’s GPS satellite network


48 x 45 x 46 mm plus tag 46 x 120mm

SLS Nylon, 350gsm coloured card, coloured cotton

3D printed, digitally printed, die-cut, assembled

Created exclusively for CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold in an edition of 200. 



 James sent us the original model

James sent us the original model

This issue of CONTAINER has given me the chance to explore new processes and manufacturing techniques, so I was excited when James sent over his 3D printed proposal.

It seems to me that knowing a lot about conventional printing provides very little useful grounding for 3D printing and I felt like I was venturing into the unknown. I found a lovely chap called Nick Allen at 3DPrint.UK who explained that, unlike conventional print, there is no price advantage for quantity and that pricing is calculated purely on either the overall volume or the mass of the item.

The idea was set from the outset with very little creative development

We produced a few prototypes, though not for any creative improvement – James had provided a clear 3D modelled artwork and knew exactly what he wanted – but to see how we might get the manufacturing cost down by hollowing out the model. This had the added benefit of making it lighter and feel more delicate, though the SLS nylon material is deceptively strong. 

Nick helped with this pre-production development work and admitted his equipment was probably not able to match the industrial scale of Shapeways in The Netherlands. He helped me get the artwork prepared for them since they offer no interpersonal customer service at all—like trying to get something made by PayPal. As some indicator of how rapidly 3D print technology is advancing, the price halved from when the first sample was produced to the actual production quantity.

One particular surprise was when the quantity of 3D objects arrived from Shapeways, like a box of alien snowflakes.

 Thread in "Green Screen green" 

Thread in "Green Screen green" 

The tag was digitally printed onto Colorplan and threaded with a cotton thread to James instruction, "match it to a Green Screen green" bought from John Lewis.

Exquisite beauty of the bulk of 3D printed objects

 Quite disturbing en masse

Quite disturbing en masse