For Christmas 2011 we designed and 3D printed the world’s highest resolution printed chocolates. These populated an advent calendar online and in our studio window.
Like our past innovation projects (Hand Drawn, Weare, and Living Identity for example), this project had similar aims: Uncover future applications of emerging technologies, enable cross-studio collaboration, and encourage our multidisciplinary teams to develop new skills.
The first step was to design 24 separate 3D models. With a brief to design ‘something close to your heart’, designers, project managers, accountants, creative directors, interns and MB founders all took up the challenge.
We begun with an assumption that 3D printing would enable efficient, small-scale manufacture. After converting the models into .stl, then g-code files, then testing in plastic, we realised how much more was involved. “We had to think about the physical properties of molten plastic and the structural integrity of layers… We had to become conversant with how the machine was put together and even how it sounded and smelled,” explained the project technical lead, Daniel Soltis. This learning process began from scratch when the machine was reconfigured to print chocolate.
The project encouraged new ways of thinking, designing and creating. Design Director Campbell Orme explained, “After this project we have designers turning up with 3D renders of scenes, objects and proposals, in a form that they never would have thought of tackling before. Irrespective of what ‘role’ they serve in our studio, or where they’re based, people have learned new techniques and ways of thinking.”
17 bars of chocolate, 175,531 lines of g-code and 41 litres of food-safe nitrogen later, we had 24 individually crafted models, representative of 24 personal stories. And as Daniel proffered, a realisation that “3D printing isn’t promising to replace the human art of creating, but to provide another avenue for complex expression.”
With thanks to Malcolm and Hannah at RepNap.