Embracing a mix of design, self-production, technology and handicraft, makers are keen inventors and creators of DIY objects. They all met up at Operae, a Turin fiesta now in its fourth year, just a few days after the Maker Faire, another major initiative with the same premise held in Rome.
The maker movement shares recycling ideas and a sense of community with the intent of making the acquired results and knowledge freely available. The Web is the vehicle on which the necessary info travels and can be sourced, and users generously repay the favour with their own contributions and experience. In short, it is a form of open-source design offering a wide range of opportunities for shared participation.
From 11 to 13 October 2013, Operae featured a whole host of talks, stands, performances and educational workshops in the spectacular setting of Turin’s Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), a titan of late-19th century industrial archaeology.
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to do great things,” claims Massimo Banzi who, in the hills around Ivrea and with four co-founders, thought up the Arduino project, an open-source single-board microcontroller now used by creatives the world over.
During Operae, Fablab Torino – a workshop where anyone can produce all sorts of things and, if need be, build the machine to make them – rebuilt a creative workshop inside the OGR, transferring in loco numerical control machines and 3D printers so as to conduct experiments and show the public their potential in total freedom.
The result was fascinating: self-production allows us to produce things and establish a direct and more human relationship with them, controlling the manufacturing process, unlike what happens with industrial objects – unalterable and quite impersonal.
Fablab Torino makers Carlo Bianchi and Michel Baroni explain what lay behind the idea of “creating functional study models in the shortest time possible.” They built a compact, domestic-size thermoformer with laser-cut plywood, simplifying the model of traditional industrial machines, which are costly and cumbersome.
The machine can produce a wide range of objects, from moulds for pastry-making to smartphone covers, from lamps in plastic to prototypes. Indeed, prototyping applications are one of the most practical and innovative uses of the thermoformer. By reducing costs and lead times, it gives designers control over the manufacturing process.
Stefano Paradiso built the Fixing Machine – a 3D layering printer – to produce polylactic acid (PLA) plasters that hold broken pieces of an object in place after they have been glued back together. In different shapes, sizes and colours, this repair plaster becomes an amusing excuse to care for possessions and bring dignity to a threatening crack. Moulded in just a few minutes, the plaster is then softened in warm water and shaped by hand on the object, adopting its form and becoming fixed to the crack – a fun celebration of repair and reuse.
In Turin, 31-year-old Gianluca Pugliese – winner of first prize in the WOW category at the Maker Faire in Rome – built an Eggbot, an unconventional machine comprising an electronic card and old recycled printer parts. The Eggbot writes on curved surfaces with an ordinary alcohol-based marker pen, meaning a simple table-tennis ball can be written on and become a special gadget or visiting card. Pugliese plans to replace the marker pen with a diamond tip, making it possible to engrave on plastic or glass and further extend its potential applications.
Finally, Rootless is a project for a bicycle with a wooden frame thought up by a team of makers – Enrico Bassi, designer and test user,
Maurizio Mion, Andrea Patrucco and Gualtiero Tumolo. Working with a numerical control cutter, the bike is custom-designed for the cyclist and comprises two frame halves made out of local and certified woods joined together. “Wood is greatly undervalued as a technical material – says Bassi – even though it offers high performance and aesthetic beauty, and is easily worked.”
A new vision of the material culture is emerging that goes against the trend for waste and exasperated consumerism in an approach not unlike that of our grandparents’ generation, when retrieving and recycling things was common practice and almost an instinctive need, not an acquired model of behaviour. This deep-seated revolution is creeping in between the consolidated channels of industrial production and traditional distribution, proposing the model of the homo faber – contemporary technological craftspeople who can produce what they need by themselves and are willing to share their know-how with the global community.