Dutch designer Dirk vander Kooij has given him new software and with that, a new lease of life as a prototyping machine. Normally speaking, rapid prototyping is unsuitable for large-scale production: constructing 3D-models in extremely high resolutions is too time-consuming and costly. But Fanuc has a much lower resolution, which allows him to produce robust models at a steady pace. The coarse structure reveals how the product has been constructed layer by layer.
For Dirk vander Kooij‘s 2010’s degree show at Design Academy Eindhoven, he exhibited chairs made from melted down refrigerators as the raw material. Fanuc is now programmed to extrude the plastic in one long string, and double it back and forth until it forms a chair.
The project, for obvious reasons, is called ‘Endless’, and it captured the hearts of all who saw it in Eindhoven, including Piet Hein Eek, who invited Dirk vander Kooij to demonstrate Fanuc’s moves in his new space across town.
Dirk vander Kooij is now obsessed with rapid prototyping such that the original chair has now been expanded into a range of products – all with the goal of making the production process more visible. The tinkerer’s focus is on the evolution of his designs, continuously rebuilding his “robot” as a way of advancing his work. This relentless dedication to perfecting the machine’s output reflects his progressive approach and commitment to adding to the design conversation.
According to Dirk – “the best thing about recycled plastic is that it has history.”
About Dirk vander Kooij
Dirk van der Kooij graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2009. He graduated with his project ‘Endless’: He made his own craftsman, where production and prototyping could meet again. He taught a robot his new craft, drawing furniture out of one endlessly long plastic string.
“As a 10 year old boy I would run to my mother in the morning to enlighten her with the importance of the project I was planning to construct that day. She had to hear all about construction and mechanical details involved. After spending all time in the workshop, most of the times I returned disappointed and empty handed.
From these experiences I learned to switch between thinking about concepts and actually building them. This way of working ensures that the actual design not only comes from a vision in the mind, but from ‘real constructive’ concepts developed in the workshop.These constructive concepts really shine in their constructive appearance. Mechanically it becomes visible, telling people the tale of its own development. For me this is a integral part of designing. People should be able to understand a product.
My last project ‘ Endless’ is an example of this vision. When the first plastic chairs were made, they began with fairly simple tools (moulds) to form the plastic. The simple tools were easy to adjust and this gave the designer the chance to evaluate the final product and adjust the tools almost endlessly.
As labour was getting more and more expensive, labour was filtered out of the process, with automated and complicated tools.These automated processes have been very inflexible until now. High investments in complicated moulds made it almost impossible for a designer to evaluate and refine his final object. The designer is no longer involved in the production process and the design stage is completely shifted to a pre -production phase.
I found the solution not in labour, but in automation. By combining different techniques, I was able to design an automated, but very flexible process. I taught a robot his new craft, drawing furniture out of one endlessly long plastic string. This makes it possible for me to design in the good old fashioned way: making a chair, evaluate, refine, making a chair….. endlessly.
What was the initial thought behind your material-based experiments?
I wanted to find a production process that gave me the chance to adapt and change a small series of product without complicated moulds. With this robot, I can build up a chair out of one plastic string and refine it endlessly.
I wanted to use plastic because it has a lot of opportunities as a material and I wanted to show a different approach, and perhaps a sort of unorthodox approach of plastic. By using recycled plastic the history of the material becomes visible. The colors will have shades and thereby every chair is unique.
The Endless chair is made from recycled refrigerators, what happens at the end of its life?
The chairs are indeed made up out of one material. So no screws, demounting of parts, etc. So at the end of its life, the only thing that is left is this material, which can easily be shredded again until the plastic is at the end of its life. In fact, we shred the prototypes we don’t like and use the material to make new ones.
Is sustainability a key factor in your designs?
No, but filling up the machine with recycled plastic gives me a better feeling. It is a challenge to be sustainable and it was even more of a challenge to use recycled plastic. I like these challenges in the design process, because it gives me some boundaries.
What do you consider the end purpose of these experiments?
I like to make honest designs, where the design itself tells people the tale of its own development. For me this is an integral part of designing. People should be able to understand a product. In the Endless chairs you can see that the chairs are built up out of one plastic string, without these complicated moulds. So this was in fact my main goal.
Do you see your furniture being mass produced in the future?
This is in fact one of my dreams to have a small factory and continue with these kind of projects. With this robot-project I want to go on until I find the borders of its production. Perhaps it will become a mass-production robot in the future.