Desktop 3D printing has become increasingly affordable in recent years; there are still some limitations and some debate on how home 3D printing will or will not change manufacturing. But as a way to help visualize the possibilities of how 3D printing can be an open-source and collaborative design platform, Dutch designer Michiel van der Kley created Project EGG, a "poetic pavilion" that features 4,760 3D-printed stones -- each one different and printed by someone else abroad, and mailed back to van der Kley for final assembly.
Recently exhibited during Dutch Design Week and seen over at Contemporist, Project EGG uses biodegradable polylactide (PLA) plastic "stones" that have been designed with parametric software. The project came about after van der Kley's recent experiments with desktop 3D printers, which prompted him to find other ways of creating larger works, without being constrained by the relatively small size of current desktop models. He explains that an open-source, collaborative approach beyond these restrictions and using the power of the Internet were key:
If you are willing to have an eye for the fact that most large things often consists of a collection of small things you are suddenly not limited by the size of the printer itself.
An object like EGG would have never been made ‘the old way’. The building itself is constructed with 4760 stones that are all different. Not one is the same as the other. You can’t do that in a factory. We could also not have been given birth to EGG if it wasn’t for the community that collaborated in such a large way.
Each stone is distinct, all coming together from places like the United States, Portugal and Australia, to form a structure of subtly varying shades of white, measuring 16 x 13 x 20 feet. Files of each stone were sent out to be printed, but those who wanted to support the project but did not have access to a 3D printer were allowed to "adopt" a stone as well.
Project EGG is the largest co-created project of its kind, and van der Kley is now working to bring it on a future world tour. For now, we don't know where desktop 3D printing might bring citizen designers, but this project does hint at some intriguing prospects of participatory design and production. More over at Contemporist, Michiel van der Kley and Project EGG.