3D printing technology is progressing at lightning speed. Using digital blueprints these machines are presently capable of high-speed production of complex, almost perfectly smooth items made from all sorts of materials. However, it was not the utility but the beauty of the products of the early ‘80s 3D printers that struck designer Dirk van der Kooij (Purmerend, 1983) during his studies at Design Academy Eindhoven. The products of those early devices (often prototypes and models) were relatively crude: the build-up of different printed layers plainly visible.
Starting with a retired automotive robot, Vander Kooij created his own machine. It produced thick ribbons of melted recycled refrigerator plastic to print chairs, tables, vases, and lamps. Environmental awareness was one consideration, but Vander Kooij was particularly interested in the resulting stratified look and color effects. One of his most recent designs is the Not Only Hollow Chair, made out of old compact disks. “Low-resolution” printing with a hollow tube of semi-transparent plastic results in a chair that is both strong and visually striking. The chair in its final design, of which twenty-five were produced, is shown next to a prototype. The prototype shows the deficiencies of the initial manufacturing process: The plastic was too viscous and cooled too rapidly, so the loops did not stick together properly.
Vander Kooij works as a modern craftsman with thorough mastery of a specific skill. Yet he continues to seek out the limits of what can be achieved with his materials and techniques. His approach shows that crafted does not necessarily equate hand-made. The machine’s robot arm replaces Vander Kooij’s arm, while the computer—like a brain—controls the robot.
Dirk Vander Kooij is one of the 26 designers and studios that are selected for the group show Dream Out Loud – Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands. The exhibition can be visited from 26 August 2016 in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Read more about the exhibition or order tickets.