Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fluid fabbing

Home 3D fabbing hasn't really caught on yet with the main public, though companies like Ponoko and Studio Ludens are making progress. It's still mainly focused on creative people, who like to devote time to craft a personal object from scratch. The rest of the people still mostly lives according to the model of a standard consumer, who buys his products ready-made from the store. But the gap between making an object yourself on the one hand, and completely delegating the crafting process to a company on the other, is narrowing.

We start to see more and more companies allowing customers to customize the products before they buy them. Nike, Adidas, Puma and Converse, for example, now all allow people to build their own shoe through a special website. But this kind of customization is mostly limited to surface qualities like material and color. Where people want to also modify the shape of the product, they are mostly limited to creating their own 3D models.

A way to make the creation of 3D models more attractive, is to partially automate it. What's more, if we use sophisticated algorithms to develop a shape, we are not bound by a strict blueprint for the product, controlled by a human designer. Instead, we can let form design go wild inside the computer, and see what comes out. A beautiful form of this semi-automated fabbing is shown in the 'Fluid Vase' by Kwok Pan Fung. He created a series of meshes, based on the shape of a fluid gushing into a vase. These meshes then, become the vase that you can buy. Thus you see more of the dynamic qualities of the form as it interacts with things in the physical world, rather than the static form itself, based on abstractions. To the eye this looks quite puzzling, as your brain tends to think that because of the shape, this form should be moving as if it was a liquid. So if we let things go wild, much more mind-boggling and eye-opening things can pop up.

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