Dominic Wilcox vs 3D Printer at la Rinascente @ Salone Milan 2012

Dominic Wilcox vs 3D Printer at la Rinascente @ Salone Milan 2012

The age of 3D Printing is here but there is a discussion around where it is heading and how useful it will be.  What can a human do that a machine can’t ? // Can the hand created object give something that a computer cannot? // Or can machines do everything better? //

Is computerised perfection emotionless?

The challenge was for Dominic Wilcox and a 3D Printer to make the best model of the nearby Duomo cathedral within 90 minutes

The 3D printer was a Makerbot and was controlled by the team at They really got into the performance and called their machine Deep Pink after the famous ‘Kasparov vs Deep Blue’ chess match. I chose to make mine from clay. I have never made anything from clay before so was a little unsure about the result.

I took some photos of the Duomo but when I started I found it difficult to remember what shape it was. There were many people around photographing and filming and for a few minutes I was thinking ‘what am I doing?’. However once I had made the first blocks I could see potential in the model and I focused on my task.

There was a big crowd and many people stayed for the whole time watching the progress intensely. The clock counted down for 90 minutes, there was a little beep for every second which made me nervous.

I won the battle of Man vs Machine in Milan at the Hacked event at La Rinascente department store! Victory for mankind!

I eat computer chips for breakfast’ Me and the We Fab team from Milan. The prize was a large ceramic ‘subbuteo’ of football team AC Milan


A couple of months ago I tweeted that ‘I want to race a Rapid Prototype Machine (a 3D Printer that makes objects) to make the same thing’. It was just one of those things you can say quickly on twitter as an ‘off the top of your head’ idea.

It turned out that curator Beatrice Galilee had been made aware of my tweet by a colleague and she then asked me if I would like to make my tweet become reality. She was organising an event called ‘Hacked’ based inside a large department store called La Rinascente during the Milan design week.

What I find interesting isn’t just the speed of making things but the simple idea of making an object with my hands competing against a computerised 3D Printer making the same thing.

I will start with a block of clay, I’ve not made anything from clay since primary school and I know that my creation, no matter what happens, will definitely have the hand made human touch (imperfections are good!). The machine is controlled by the computer file used to create the model.

I remember hearing about the Kasparov vs Deep Blue chess match where the world champion took on the super computer.

I decided that the thing we both will make is the Duomo, a large cathedral only ten metres away from the department store in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo (a large square).

The Duomo has a long history in Milanese life including, bizarrely, the fact that a model of the Duomo was thrown at the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi not so long ago.

So the plan is simple, I will sit at a table making a model of the Duomo in clay and a 3D Printer will sit opposite me working away on making it’s own Duomo.

A large clock will countdown for 1.5 hours.

The 3D printer is a Thing-o-matic MakerBot and will be controlled by

The ‘match’ event is on 19th April, 5 pm till 6.30 pm, in the basement floor, La Rinascente, Milan.

About ‘Hacked’ event

To celebrate the world’s original design festival, Salone del Mobile, La Rinascente’s flagship store proudly presents ‘Hacked’

‘Hacked’, 100 hours of rebellious creativity, will be rampaging and rollicking its way through La Rinascente during Milan Design Week. Hacking – the thrill of modification and customization – will be celebrated here in bombastic style.

Over the course of 100 hours the store will be radically altered – inside and out – as it becomes an interactive experimental lab space. By collaborating with the most exciting young talents in design, La Rinascente invites everyone to ‘Come, explore and hack’

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