Design

Back to Basics

by Yuval Saar | 30.09.15

4

“If I would print a plastic plate in China, and then print the very same plate from the very same plastic in Tel Aviv, something would get lost”

During the latest DMY (Berlin’s Design Week), Jon McTaggart presented an intriguing project in the “New Talents” category. The project which focused on the different aspects of three dimensional printing, was developed as part of his studies in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design M.A. program of industrial design.

“In this work, I try to discuss tactile materialism in the age of digital manufacturing,” he explains. “How can a unique, location-based materialism be combined with manufacturing technologies of generic machines, such as three dimensional printers.”

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“The media promises us that very soon, three dimensional printers will be regular products in every household and everyone could print whatever it is they need. The problem I recognize in such a utopian future is that we would all print in the same printers with the same materials. If I would print a plastic plate in China, and then print the very same plate from the very same plastic in Tel Aviv, something would get lost.״

“I’m trying to bring that intangible something back by using local products that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world, unless the material itself is mobilized via a shipping container. The idea is to create a process that would allow one to recreate the object time and again, but the printing process would happen within sand, and will not create plastic made from bought materials. In that same process I can create the same object, but changing the sand changes the object entirely: its look, texture and material features. A new composite is created according to the type of sand I print with.”

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Why should the customer care? What should it matter to me if my plate and the plate printed in China look the same?

Because products are not just projects, and the story a product tells culturally isn’t only defined by its functionality. Half a century ago craftsmen still existed: the German carpenter specialized in making objects from beech, the Japanese carpenter created objects made of bamboo and the Swedish carpenter worked with pine. In Israel there weren’t any carpenters back then so the buildings were all built with stone; in Africa they were made from mud and straw. The material context of products is starting to become extinct, and with it the stories of these cultures will disappear. That’s the issue I am trying to raise through my project.”

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But let me reiterate my question: Why is this important? For that matter, I am not really concerned with the fact that my iPhone is identical to the one someone might have in Italy, Spain or Korea.

“That’s true. In the world of electronics we have already reached a point where due to globalization we all use the exact same devices. It has also reached our homes: by merely looking at a picture of the inside of a furnished house, it’s hard to tell whether the picture was taken in a house in Berlin or in a kibbutz in the Galilee – most of us have the same furniture from Ikea. The question to be asked is whether this is something we want as a culture or not? I certainly think not.”

“The problem is not just materialistic. Craftsmanship is disappearing from our culture, and the industrial design that aspires to maximize the manufacturing process has absolved us with the need to use local materials, something that was common in craft work. If we continue to erase all of our cultural characteristics, all that will remain in the end is an obscure plastic mismash with manual instructions in English, not to mention the fact that we import materials from the other side of the world just to create something in our basement. After all, corn-made plastic most often arrives all the way from the U.S Midwest, when we could be growing it in our backyard.”

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// Translation from hebrew by Joy Bernard

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