Our world is changing at a pace we struggle to comprehend sometimes. Some say not always for the better. We believe it will.
Considering the basic definition of Industrial Design we see that mass production is a major part of it. Unfortunately, up til now thoughtless mass production has been a part of creating the bane of modernity: mass waste. As populations explode, careless attitudes towards environment and sustainability wreak visible damage on our eco-systems. Until now economic issues have dominated decisions about infra-structures and future-planning. While past societies managed to get away with it, global awareness and all-time presence puts individual and communal decisions under the microscope and assesses the short- and long-term effects of those decisions. And not just in a localized, but a global context.
Starting in 2007 Ross Stevens asked his students to create their own unique 3D printers, experimenting with printing techniques and materials in the broadest possible sense. The discussions and evaluations opened up new perspectives and highlighted the need for creative recycling of the printing materials. As the workshop was filling up with discarded or broken printing experiments and the increased use of 3D printers in small businesses or domestic environments became imminent, the students themselves realized its importance for the future.
The changed awareness and attitudes have resulted in a change of educational directions in Industrial Design as well.
It used to be that objects were designed with their present place in time in mind – maybe a bit of the past was incorporated to enhance the appeal – but the history and future of their individual parts generally were not relevant to the design process. As we learn more and more of what our individual ecological footprints are made out of, we endeavour to minimize them. Buying locally grown food and op-shopping are obvious choices for the individual. But what about consumer products? Increasingly society is demanding to have these thoughts applied to consumer products as well.
At Victoria University we are not only reacting to this, but aiming to initiate even further reaching changes. Encouraging our students to create not just objects, but rather machines and new processes enabling a more responsible consumer behaviour. For example our research into recycling technology.
Fastforward to 2010 and the development of the worlds’ first recyclebot at Victoria University in Wellington! As the 3D printing industry was showing keen interest, Ross Stevens and Jeongbin Ok were confirmed in their belief, that this is a valuable contribution not just to the preservation efforts for the planet, but could also provide the means to revive parts of New Zealand’s industry and empower small isolated nations in their quests of developing sustainable and independent industries.