Engineer Develops the micro-BLOCK: a 3D Printed All-in-One Kitchen Countertop Device

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microblockfeaturedKitchen clutter is something my wife and I get in arguments about all of the time. If I leave something on the countertop that belongs in a drawer, I simply know that I won’t hear the end of it. My problem is that everything in our kitchen is so far away from where it should be, and when I need a certain utensil, I’m usually digging through three different drawers or cabinets to find it. Traditionally, most kitchens are like this, simply for the mere fact that regular drawers and cabinets just don’t lend themselves to being very easily organized.

For one man named Kurt Hamel, this issue was something that he also could see for himself. So when MakerBot and GE teamed for the FirstBuild Countertop Challenge, he had just the perfect idea for his entry.

microblock7“[The] challenge brief says something to the effect of ‘design something that fills the empty space between your countertop and the bottom of your upper kitchen cabinets… designs can be purely 3D printed or can have components that are powered by wall outlets or plugged into WiFi enabled USB ports,'” Hamel tells 3DPrint.com. “I read between the lines a little bit and interpreted those instructions as saying ‘make something awesome for the kitchen of the future.'”

So what he came up with is a device called the micro-BLOCK, which is a countertop space saving organizational device which not only functions amazingly well, but also looks great at the same time. Hamel got the idea from his wooden knife block that he currently has in his kitchen, but he wanted to create an “awesome knife-block of the future,” and that’s exactly what he did.

Before simply throwing some design ideas together though, Hamel took a trip to his local department store to look at the kinds of kitchen tools that they had on hand. He then went home, locked himself in a room for a weekend with a bunch of junk food, and began modeling his idea using Alibre Design (now branded as Geo Magic, after 3D Systems’ acquisition).

Hamel's sketches

Hamel’s sketches

Hamel didn’t want a conventional knife block by any means. He wanted to incorporate as many unique design features into his creation as possible, and that included an LCD display and more!

“Because this was also going to be the knife block of the future, I felt like it also needed an LCD display and WiFi connectivity to control other smart kitchen appliances, so I looked around my house of some components that would do the trick,” Hamel tells us. “An old Samsung Galaxy S3 seemed to fit the bill.”

This LCD display can also be used to find recipes and stream cooking videos while in the kitchen. The possibilities are really endless. As for the block itself, it is designed to hold all of the following items:microblock2

  • 8” Carving Knife
  • Utility Knife
  • Set of 4 Steak Knives
  • Measuring Cups (1, 3/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1/4)
  • Measuring Spoons (1Tbl, 1Tsp, 1/2Tbl, 1/2 Tsp, 1/4 Tbl)
  • Serving Spoon
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Slotted Spatula
  • Digital Cooking Timer
  • Pairing Knife
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Bottle Opener / Cork Screw
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Can Punch
  • 2 Packs of Matches

I don’t know about you, but this is about 4 drawers worth of clutter that I could clean up simply by 3D printing Hamel’s design. As for the design itself, it is made up of nine different STL files which can all be 3D printed on virtually any FFF-based 3D printer and then easily assembled.

Hamel doesn’t have all that much experience in designing kitchenware. In fact he is a mechanical engineer in the shipbuilding industry, analyzing ship structure on a daily basis. His company has a Stratasys Fortus 360MC as well as an Objet Eden 500v, so he does have quite a bit of experience around 3D printers. He also is a member of the 3D Printing Providence, which is a group for 3D printing enthusiasts in the Providence/Boston, Rhode Island area.

What do you think about Hamel’s design? Is this something you would like to have in your kitchen? Discuss in the 3D Printed micro-BLOCK forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out some more photos below:

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