Aug 12, 2016 | By Alec

Even though the desktop 3D printer market isn’t expanding very rapidly right now, it is certainly changing. The focus seems to have shifted from accuracy to accessibility. Today’s 3D printers can be as complex or as plug-and-play as you want them, backed by powerful software that does all the work for you if necessary. While it certainly makes 3D printing a lot more accessible, you can also wonder if the making hobby is losing part of its soul. Are we still building new things, or are we just as uniform as the rest of the world by relying on pre-made files and automated perfection?

While everyone might answer that question differently, it’s a clear cut case for Dutch product designer Daniël de Bruin. A graduate from the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, he has developed a remarkable 3D printer unlike any other in existence: it doesn’t use any electricity, or any wiring or software whatsoever. The world’s first analog 3D printer, that full relies on kinetic energy. We first reported on this remarkable mechanical 3D printer back in 2014, but Daniël has been working on it since then and has been a huge hit at numerous making events – where crowds have been wowed by its unique and methodical manufacturing system, which produces a wide range of clay vessels.

Daniël himself is also an extraordinary figure, and a product designer who isn’t completely sold on 3D printing must be a rare sight nowadays. In fact, this machine grew out of his own experience with digital making platforms. “The 3D printer has grown out of a realization I had during my studies. A FabLab was built at the academy, absolutely packed with computer-controlled machines and I loved working with that technology: 3D printers, laser cutters and so on,” he recalls. “But what frustrated me is that it this digital dimension removes the sensation of actually making something. The machine does all the work, making the final product lose a lot of its value.”

It also opened the designer’s eyes to current manufacturing standards, which are increasingly automated for a good reason. “Not only are these processes more efficient and therefore cheaper, they also ensure that every item meets the same criteria and does not deviate from the norm. However deviations are usually the most interesting. As with humankind and the rest of nature, true beauty lies in its diversity,” he says. “I have always had a fascination for production processes but also for natural phenomena. I want to stay true to both these fascinations and so try to find a balance between control and chance in most of my products.”

In an attempt to bring these automated processes back to the artisanal realm, he built a truly extraordinary 3D printer. “I didn’t prepare any blueprints; I just jumped into the workshop and started building. This process resulted in a machine that is completely mine and requires my energy to run. It’s not a complicated machine packed with electricity or equally complicated software,” he explains.

It also relies on an ingenious system to actually 3D print. Key is a 15 kg weight, that turns a bicycle sprocket to put pressure on a syringe (filled with clay) while simultaneously rotating the build platform. A propeller adds a clock-like motion to the machine and relies on air resistance to control pressure and get a systematic extrusion speed.

This, in a nutshell, allows the machine to 3D print clay shapes and pots. And thanks to a clever system of different aluminum wires, a series of different shapes and volumes can be created. For these wires affect the rotation process of the printing platform, so that each and every wire results in a different print radius. Differently colored clays can even be used for different results. It’s a low tech solution for a process that otherwise requires highly complex software.

While the results are remarkably accurate and impressive, Daniël himself is especially pleased by the important role the user plays in the 3D printing process. For the weight creates enough 3D printing energy for about ten minutes – meaning that the user has to reset the weight throughout the printing process. “The weight allows me to be still connected with the process, because there is no external force involved like electricity it's still me that's making the print. By physically building and powering the machine the products that come out of it are the result of all the energy that has gone into it,” he explains.

This, in turn, will give the artist in question a greater sense of accomplishment and ensures that even 3D printing remains artisanal. And surely that is a quality we all look for in our making projects.



Posted in 3D Printer



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heng wrote at 8/14/2016 9:22:07 AM:

very cool. 2 ideas for future version upgrades: make punchcards program for shape programming use solar concentrator to melt filament then you have a fully zero electricity system :)

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