Hand-powered 3D printer reconnects makers with their products (Video)

Daniel de Bruin
© Daniel de Bruin

Additive manufacturing has become more mainstream in the last few years, with a deluge of 3D printed products -- and even buildings and bridges -- making it into the spotlight. It's certainly changed how designers conceive and execute designs, and transformed how many schools are teaching design. But for some, 3D printing doesn't give the same satisfaction, nor the same sense of ownership, as making something yourself with your own hands. Based out of the Netherlands, designer Daniel de Bruin created this hand-powered, analog version of a 3D printer, which makes objects layer by layer. Watch it in action:

THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY - Analogue 3D printer from DANIELDEBRUIN on Vimeo.

For de Bruin, 3D printing is a technological leap ahead, but it separates the maker from his craft. He explains the motivation behind his invention:

3D printing allows me to create products swiftly and more efficiently then ever, but these products don’t feel like they’re mine. They’re merely a product of this new technology.

Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin
Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin

Seen over at Designboom and titled "This New Technology," de Bruin's two-metre-tall contraption features an assembly of gears, chains and metal platforms that are hand-cranked in unison to produce various ceramic forms that are technically 3D printed, but by hand. Modified by a manually placed guide wire, a system of pulleys and weights are operated and lifted by hand, which forces clay out of a syringe onto a rotating metal plate, thus creating vases which can be fired as usual. It's a way to reconnect the producer and product.

Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin
Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin
Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin

One of the challenges of this hand-operated machine was keeping the material width consistent. De Bruin solved it by employing what he calls a "variomatic system" that works in conjunction with the guiding wire. Nevertheless, the point of the project is to also highlight the beauty of hand-made imperfections, says de Bruin:

More and more products are being fashioned by means of automated processes. Not only are these more efficient and cheaper, they also ensure that every item meets the same strict criteria, and doesn’t deviate from the norm. However, deviations are usually the most interesting. As with humankind and nature, true beauty lies in diversity.

Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin
Daniel de Bruin© Daniel de Bruin

Hardcore techies may say, "so what?," but the project is compelling because it emphasizes how technology can sometimes divorce us from our creations, no matter how amazing it seems. It questions whether everything has to be 3D printed someday, and seems to suggest that perhaps there should some limits to adopting technology, and that there is value to "imperfect" craftsmanship. While this seems like an one-off project, with no apparent plans to mass-market it, some have noted that de Bruin's invention is merely a modern take on the traditional pantograph. In any case, it gets us thinking about how important it is to not get too carried away with putting 3D printing on an ideological pedestal. It's useful, but sometimes, it's still a good idea to make something with your hands. More over at Daniel de Bruin.

Tags: Downloadable Design | Netherlands | video

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