The Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska is famous for its magnificent ice caves, but it also serves as a bellwether of how the climate of Earth is in flux.
Some 3,000 years ago and ending in the mid-1700s, the glacier had reached its point of maximum advance nearly two and a half miles from where it now terminates. The glacier began retreating as its annual rate of melt began to exceed its total annual accumulation, and as the ice retreats and uncovers bare rock, the wind and melt result in the spectacular forms which serve as the ceilings of the caves.
German design firm NOWlab says they began an ongoing research project to study these glaciers’ natural evolution in their applications with the idea of creating products which reflect the processes at work there.
Their Glacier is a 100% recyclable and biodegradable sculptural table meant to represent a new paradigm for product development and construction.
Founding partners Jörg Petri and Daniel Büning established NOWlab in 2014. Petri was an associate architect and project leader at UNStudio in Amsterdam, and was Büning investigating novel digital solutions for the design, simulation and fabrication of 3D printed architectural elements.
With Glacier, the pair say they wished to integrate three-dimensional, periodic microstructures in the table to provide structural performance and light weight. They used computer simulations to account for the locations of peak stress points within the table, and they adjust the geometry of the design to handle those forces.
Working in cooperation with BigRep and using that company’s ONE.2 printer, the designers build each of the tables entirely with the 3D printing process. The ONE.2 printer is capable of building objects up to 1m³, and the table itself is made from biodegradable plastic.
“The processes of material layering over time, respectively layers of snow compacting, becoming ice and being melted to water eventually evaporating and becoming clouds are the fragile stages of this fascinating and complete cycle of nature,” the designers say of their manufacturing choice. “The ‘GLACIER’ therefore stands for the idea of the optimum material cycle. It is created through an additive production process where material is added over time in a layer-by-layer manner without further molds or additional scaffolding material necessary. The biodegradable material used in this design can be 100% recycled and melted again to produce another material formation of different function.”
Petri and Büning say they hope the project “opens the gateway to a new dimension of 3D printing and 3D manufacturing” and that the technology allows them to produce furniture pieces on demand and ready to use.
Have you ever visited the Mendenhall Glacier or purchased any 3D printed furniture? Let us know in the 3D Printed Glacier Table forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out more photos of the table and 3D printers used below.