Digital manufacturing for a better world. MID collaborates with Brightlands Chemelot Campus

This semester the Master Industrial Design collaborates with Brightlands Chemelot Campus a 'creative breeding ground for innovation in smart materials and sustainable manufacturing'. The Chemelot Campus, located at the Royal DSM site, offers high tech and state of the art machinery, technical know-how and academic expertise all in one place.

What are the possibilities and (societal) implications of digital manufacturing? 3D printing techniques are often accompanied by statements about sustainability and democratization. 3D printing can replace the costly and time-consuming technique of injection molding. With low start-up costs and accessible technology it enables everyone to potentially start a (local) production line and as such subverts the classical 'economy of scale'. Sounds wonderful, but this is mostly theory: The techniques and new materials are there, or being developed by parties such as Brightlands, but meaningful and societally beneficial implementations often lag behind.

Take 3D Printing with CO2 for instance. Brightlands developed an impressive technique to make this possible. But what to do with it? Possibility does not equal use, let alone sensible or meaningful applications.

'The scientist and technicians at Brightlands develop new techniques and materials and look at this process solely from the scientific or technological angle' says Maaike Roozenburg, head of the Master Industrial Design.

'Our students expertise is complementary to their expertise. Where Brightlands asks 'what' and 'how' our students ask 'why'. As designers and creatives they can think about and design both meaningful and useful implementations of new materials and technologies.'

'I do see a gap between researchers, who develop interesting materials and technologies, and designers, who can develop relevant products and uses', says student Elina. 'The two should be working together more closely.' She feels this collaboration is an opportunity to connect with people and technologies that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

Student Sandipan agrees, adding: 'We can get valuable feedback and references of relevant people from the field that can be useful for our projects.'

Student Honor was quite surprised to notice that meaningful and useful implementations of new materials and technologies do not seem to be a priority for industry and has some doubts: 'I do think there will be the possibility to use equipment we wouldn't necessarily have access to otherwise. But I am not sure the corporate world marries well with the conceptual, free ethos of KABK.'

But it is in fact perhaps precisely this sometimes uncomfortable marriage that MID is interested in:

'We educate our students to question and re-design industry, so I am happy that our students are critical. That is their job.'
Maaike Roozenburg, head of the Master Industrial Design

And like every marriage this one is hard work in more than one way: The Brightlands Campus is located in Geleen, the South of the Netherlands, which means: getting up early for a long commute by train. 'I am getting a lot of reading done', says Honor. Sandipan prefers working on his presentations in the morning. The return journey is for power naps, talking and listening to music.

This collaborative design project is led by designer Dries Verbruggen of design studio Unfold, Antwerp.