I have had the pleasure of inviting artists duo Carolin Liebl and Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler for a 3 weeks residency in the FabLab at Cardiff School of Art and Design, as part of the EASTN-DC European research project in digital creativity. Carolin and Nikolas have now returned to their hometown Offenbach, Germany, after 3 weeks in the FabLab and my studio. They have been busy, started experimenting with the Formlabs 3D printers and 3D scanners. They started by making charging pods for their Sibling robots and printed nature-inspired shapes.
They gradually realised that they were not interested so much in printing 3D sculptural forms as they were in inventing their own way of printing objects with plastic, preferably recycled from faulty prints or plastic bottles. They came up with the idea of making a mobile robot that would at times extrude rough plastic shapes in its environment. They started by removing the printhead from a discarded Makerbot Replicator, drilled new holes in the extrusion nozzle and designed a control circuit. After successful testing they put the assembly on a custom mobile chassis with vibrating legs.
In parallel they also made from scratch a prototype extruder, a precursor for the printing engine of their larger robot. They got inspiration from the great plastic recycling instructions provided by Precious Plastics. After a couple of days working in the metal shop at CSAD the extruder was ready to go. It is a heated tube inside which an endless screw rotates slowly, pushing melting plastic towards the extruding end. Early tests took place on the last evening of their residency, where the screw spun, the heaters heated and pieces of plastic bottles melted, a promising start!!
Image above: the first “print” from the extruder, made of recycled PET bottles.
Carolin and Nikolas will continue working on the plastic sculptor robot in their studio, ready for exhibition for the Cardiff EASTN-DC Festival in March 2021. We are really looking forward to see them back with their robot!