Design duo use 3D printer to bring swirling vortex to field

By an acre field, low on shade and canopied by toadstools and grazing cattle Further inland, something spectacular lies in wait. I arrive at Camp Hope, an equestrian training centre on the edge of…

Design duo use 3D printer to bring swirling vortex to field

By an acre field, low on shade and canopied by toadstools and grazing cattle

Further inland, something spectacular lies in wait. I arrive at Camp Hope, an equestrian training centre on the edge of Yorkshire’s spine of granite hills. The tranquillity of the field is interrupted by a sharp clatter of metal. It is not a spring bouncer or a golf club, but an 11-foot-tall metal Object 3D printer, that has been ridden along to the rendezvous by a young boy.

A 3D printer produces plastic objects by building layers from a thin layer of raw material. This particular model, which resembles a square sewn on to a rectangular printed sheet, was designed by Rebecca Fergusson and Terry Gibbs, the principal designers of Overproprietary, the world’s largest provider of 3D printers to the film industry. Two years ago, the pair came up with the concept of a 3D printing machine that could be used for cartographic and architectural projects on a shoestring budget and maximum impact.

“This is a ridiculous device,” said Gibbs, “but it is making a real impact on the world.”

Today the objects we print will soon help to create a gravity-defying sculpture, based on the law of attraction that Fergusson and Gibbs teach us in their lectures on the principles of magnetism, which relate to the repulsive appeal of other forms of matter.

“We are using the 3D printer to make a kinetic sculpture that has been attracted to this field and will create a vortex effect,” said Gibbs. “Most of our sensors are pointing towards the hexagonal shape we are printing. Each metre-long track produces as many as 100 particles, and if we measure the drift we will have the shape we are looking for.”

Gibbs and Fergusson believe that their machine is turning a corner in history, but it would be foolish to think that there is no room for improvement. “This machine won’t make it to Heathrow any time soon,” says Gibbs. “If a problem arises, you have to put it in an oven to do the job. That would be good if the oven was empty, but I cannot foresee that happening.”

• For more information, visit Open Access Print Lab, @ODPLoam.

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