It seems the role of designer in the twenty-first century is not to define ourselves through the application of fine form language, usability, and marketing but to navigate the conceptual tension between what is expected and what is possible though emerging technology. I am interested in how the technology of digital fabrication is renegotiating antiquated notions of craftsmanship and want to investigate the discord between manual craftsman ship and mechanized processes.
This is the "Big Idea" at the heart of my Senior Design Thesis project at the University of Michigan
To investigate my thesis I am building a large 3D printer and then using it to create a unique piece of furniture. How large you might ask? Large enough to print any design that fits within a four-foot cube. The machine will print objects using a technique called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) where a plastic filament will be heated then precisely deposited on the print bed, building an object in 3-Dimensions as layers are deposited upon layers. The print media will be an environmentally friendly and biodegradable plastic, PLA (polylactic acid), made from corn products.
I will utilize the intimate experience of designing and building my printer to inform the design of a functional furniture object that is vicariously informed by digital process while simultaneously challenging expected craft, material, and form language. How are prototypical notions subverted when the technology is used to create functional objects? What are the ramifications of flawless physical craft? How is human interaction mediated with an object that has no craftsman? These are just a few of the many questions I hope to explore with my design.
The dictum of The Next Project will offer criterion for evaluating the effective use of a mechanized or mechanical process. Technology affords an opportunity to create objects once thought impossible, but does having such power justify its exercise? Given the vicarious nature of the machine to ensnare of emancipate imagination, these criterion attempt to strike a balance between the means and ends of contemporary craftsman and technology.
- The design must be as innovative as the means to produce it. Without such a cyclical relation, the designer is a slave to his tools (predictable) or the design may become so naively idealistic that it exists outside of the realm of manufacture (unattainable).
- Challenge the expected outcome of mechanical and manual processes and in doing so blur the distinctions between them.
- Strike a balance between the necessity of process with the noise of possibility
How KickStarter can help?
Technology is expensive. I am a full time college student balancing 2 jobs and my senior design thesis, The Next Project. For the last 7 months I have managed to privately fund my work but have fallen short of what I need to make this project a reality. I have worked very hard to creatively optimize my limited resources. All of the linear bearings, mounting plates, and couplings were designed and fabricated here at the university by me. A local tool and die shop donated free time in their facilities during the weekends for me to fabricate any additional precision parts I needed. With the exception of the 80/20, all of the aluminum for my printer was foraged or donated. Over 65% of my total expenses were critical electronics and motors that could not be fabricated by me or substituted. The money I am asking for on Kickstarter will help to finish my project by purchasing the print media and software licenses that remain.
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