DAMN° is particularly pleased to announce that UNFOLD, the Antwerp based design studio that pioneered the printing of 3D ceramics back in 2009, will be presenting two new pieces at Palazzo Litta, in the exhibition 'BELGIUM IS DESIGN: Belgian Matters', curated by DAMN°. These pieces were developed together with Materialise, the world famous provider of 3D-printing software & services based in Belgium.

"We see innovation as an opportunity to renew a traditional technique. Thus, craft and age-old knowledge not only survive but become rejuvenated. We see a 3D printer not as a substitute for something else, but rather as a complement. It is a tool, something that’s in your toolbox", proclaim Claire Warnier and Dries Verbruggen, who graduated from the Eindhoven Academy in 2002: “An inspiring environment, but in fact we learned the most from our fellow students.” Sharing, co-working, open sourcing, DIY: for Warnier and Verbruggen these are not buzzwords but are simply the most interesting ways to obtain the best results. They do most of the things themselves, and the accessibility of open source 3D printing is what enables them to do so. In their studio are six self-built 3D printers, all made using open source information. “We’d never have been able to build our 3D printers without the knowledge and insight of others who have shared information via open source. Open source has democratised 3D printing.”

Design side table by Unfold.
Although the UNFOLD duo gained fame as pioneers in ceramic 3D printing, they actually use that specific printer less often. Today they focus more on their way of thinking, and increasingly work with companies who are interested in applying UNFOLD’s philosophy to their own brand. For instance, a couple of years ago, UNFOLD started to collaborate with Parisian perfume designer Barnabé Fillion. Together they worked on several olfactory experiences that triggered the attention from perfume brands. They introduced a 3D-printed ceramic fragrance diffuser that was based on a concept they had designed earlier as an accessible and affordable water filter. “So the very same tool that enhances a person’s quality of life can become a luxury object.”

With its philosophy and body of work, UNFOLD fits perfectly into the general theme of the exhibition at Palazzo Litta: A Matter of Perception: Tradition and Technology. In regard to the pieces they are presenting, UNFOLD and Materialise have agreed to focus on a support structure made of 3D-printed resin that is then cast in bronze. “Thus, we want to emphasise that Materialise is more than just a 3D printing company; its core business is to develop the appropriate software. With our project, we are highlighting that.” The pair says that they like the architectural quality of the support structures generated by the e-Stage software from Materialise – “You could say it looks a bit gothic or that it refers to industrial forms such as those used in the petrochemical industry… Functional objects with a hyper-functional form that supports them.” (The photographs of German artist couple Bernd and Hilla Becher have inspired them). UNFOLD plays with Materialise's e-Stage software that generates support structures for 3D printed objects. These support structures are designed to minimize material usage, but still have to go in the bin after 3D printing. “We use only the structure, not the object that is supported by the structure. We have replaced the object with a hand-blown piece of glass and turned the waste material into the actual design.” The second piece they are showing at Palazzo Litta is a side table made of milled timber with a metal support structure underneath. It is the first time UNFOLD has worked with Materialise. “An interesting experience! Materialise shared their knowledge and accommodated our needs for this project, using high end techniques.”

Lamp (zoom) by Materialise, image by Materialise.
Video: l'Artisan Électronique. "While industry and craftsmanship are positioned as polar opposites, they would be more accurately represented as volatile points in a matrix of manual, mechanical, and electrical forces. Wheel-thrown pottery, for example, though now considered an artisanal skill, developed as a partial automation of coil pottery by the third millennium, B.C., making the production of small clay vessels more efficient. If industry is characterized by the displacement of advanced operations from hands to machines, then handicraft is defined by its retention of fine motor skills mastered over years of practice. In l’Artisan Électronique, designers Unfold and Tim Knapen investigate the intersection between craft, industry, and digital making, avoiding easy categorisation."

Support structure printed by Materialise, photo by Materialise.
Inspiring photographs, by the German artist couple Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Becher Wasserturm Glass, mock-up by Unfold.
The Peddler, a 3d printed ceramic diffuser, for Barnabé Fillion.
Open Source Ceramic Waterfilter, and Open Structures waterboiler: an ongoing research project in collaboration with various research institutes on the potential benefits of using Unfold's unique ceramic 3D printing process for the production of water filters in the developing world.