Furniture with a Squeeze of Toothpaste

A one-armed toothpaste robot, that writes chairs into existence

When Dirk Vander Kooij started at the Design Academy in Eindhoven he had a dream of someday calling a design studio his own and once his third and final year at the academy came he knew he wanted to go out with an extraordinary graduation project, a project that would make his dream come true.

Inspired by an old 3D printer the wheels in his head started turning.

“The way the parts were calculated – with no waste – I thought it was a beautiful thing”

Mr Vander Kooij looked at the ornaments created by the printer and knew it would be worth to blow them up into a bigger scale. One week before his graduation show he had produced his first chair – squirted out of a toothpaste-like mixture made of recycled plastic.

The process for the Endless production range is very simple. The machine is fed with granulates, which are melted into a long synthetic thread. Then the robot arm just moves along a path, squeezing out the paste. “It writes out the chair, layer by layer.” However easy this may sound it was a long and rocky road to get there.

The separate steps of the development, like the programming, the building of the extruder (which he did himself) and the recipe for a perfectly smooth paste were all challenging. However “To do it without budget, was the tricky part.”

Mr Vander Kooij didn’t receive any financial backing when he started on this 18 month long development journey. He used up all the money he got from student subsidies and scraped together bits and pieces of old machines.

“I was keen on calling every company that might like to help me with smaller pieces, then I assembled them in my own little workshop”

Only the robot arm was borrowed from until Mr Vander Kooij was able to buy it.

The granules used for the plastic batter stem from refrigerator interiors and other household appliances. “It’s recycled plastic – 100%” Hence the raw paste has a greyish-white colour. With the adding of pigments to the mix it assumes colour.

The latest project of Studio Dirk Vander Kooij is the Satellite Lamp. It is created in the same endless synthetic thread process but made of transparent material. The transparency is something that currently makes the lamp the only non-recycled product in the Vander Kooij range until clean source for transparent granules is found. “It is really difficult because all the left over machines and stuff are shredded and then sorted out into plastic, into metal, into all sorts of material and there is no automatic way to pick out the transparent pieces yet.”

But Mr Vander Kooij and his team of five are eagerly looking for a solution to this problem, most likely by finding someone who can divide the transparent pieces from the rest before they go into the shredder.

“It’s not only developing the technique into a technique that is capable of doing anything but it’s more the development of a furniture making machine that we use to make OUR kind of furniture”

In the three years since Mr Vander Kooij’s graduation and the founding of Studio Dirk Vander Kooij the improvement of machine and process have not stopped. Furniture angles become wider, chairs can be produced faster or paste threads can be thicker but one there is one point in the development that is near and dear to the creator.

Looking ahead the designer sees his company growing in the furniture business and hopes to find more projects like Endless lined up next to each other. Running out of ideas is a fear Dirk Vander Kooij does not have, he is sitting on a bunch of folders, filled with hundreds of them, just waiting to be approached and completed in the years to come and even though the developing of an idea takes a lot of time and hard work, at Studio Dirk Vander Kooij it will certainly be done in style.

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