Bringing design and manufacture one step closer to Eco homes

oliver General, Materials, Technology/ Energy Saving

One of my great pleasures as a designer is to get the chance to visit a factory. It’s the machinery, the materials and the magic of seeing a raw product become a finished thing of beauty that does it for me. Well, the idea of visiting a factory is set to change as we’re now seeing a trend for mini-mobile factories coming to you. Environmentally this is all good news – materials can be transported more easily, costs are down and material wastage can be kept to a minimum. Oh, and of course, you get to see a little magic happening before your very eyes.

One of the brilliant exponent of mobile factories is Phil Cuttance. Phil has recently designed and manufactured the trophy for the first Icon Awards but primarily he’s known for his vases, light shades and side tables produced using his mobile factory. Phil’s factory can be taken apart and flat-packed (in a good way), so it can be transported anywhere in the world.

Using his mobile factory, Phil can produce bespoke and completely individually faceted vessels, shades and tables. He does this by manually manipulating the mould during casting and adding different resins during the process. It makes the revealing of each piece a surprise and retains the excitement of the manufacturing process that many factories have lost.

Markus Kayser set up his studio in London in 2011 aiming to explore the possibilities of combining technology and natural energy. He’s certainly done that, using a variety of new production methods, including his Sun Cutter. By focusing pure sunlight through lenses, shapes are cut from card, paper and plywood.

Developing the idea further, he created his Solar Sinter, which used two of the most readily available elements on the planet: sun and sand. The Solar Sinter was essentially a 3D extension of the Sun Cutter and could produce 3D objects by melting sand and producing glass. If you haven’t seen the video of this in action, it’s well worth checking out. It’s 3D printing like you have never seen before.

Another London-based studio, Unto This Last, seeks to “offer the convenience of a local craftsman’s workshop at mass production prices”. It’s an admirable, if challenging, goal. All the pieces are made on site using Birch-ply composite and with everything being made to order, you aren’t limited in terms of choice.

Regular readers might be familiar with Facit Homes, a UK company that uses a mobile manufacturing unit to create entire houses. All the information about the schematics of your home (right down to the plug sockets) is inputted into the mobile factory, and it is then processed piece-by-piece until a final 3D model is produced. It’s great for keeping costs and wastage down to a minimum.

And lastly, but probably most exciting, how about owning your own mobile factory? There are a couple of options available, firstly the Dr Seuss inspired  Thing-O-matic 3D printer, this allows you to move around and take your work with you. This desktop-size printer means you can have your very own factory at home. The printer does all the work for you. All you have to do is hit print and you just started your own production line.

Or better still, how about a Form1 3D printer? Formlabs have created this product to help make high quality 3D printing possible and affordable to a wider audience. The detailing it can produce is amazing, just think of all those high quality pieces you could soon be manufacturing!

The printer is yet to be released, but we are all eagerly awaiting the date. I love it and I really, really want one. Now I can combine two of my favourite things: visiting a factory and being at home coming up with new ideas!