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Carly Ayres

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  11 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


If you were attending the Salone del Mobile in Milan this this week, you might have seen a little black Daihatsu pickup driving around with some nebulous cargo in the back—the Cumulus Parasol, a cloud-like umbrella that inflates in reaction to sunlight.

Cumulus is the work of the Netherlands-based Castor Bours and Wouter Widdershoven. The duo has been working together on explorative design projects since early 2007, forming Studio Toer in the center of Eindhoven in 2011. "When you look around, most interiors are static," Bours says. "We want to create products that communicate with you. The Cumulus Parasol was developed from an exploration in creating an object that reacts to its own surroundings."

It works via four small, rectangular polycrystalline solar cells that harvest energy from the sun. The polycrystalline cells are made up of raw silicon, melted and poured into a square mold, that is cooled and cut into perfectly square pieces. As one of the most standardized processes for making solar panels, polycrystalline panels tend to be the least expensive on the market and can be easily sourced online, as was the case for Studio Toer. One slight hitch: Even though the polycrystalline panels are low in intensity, the duo found that too much power allowed the parasol to inflate in no sun. "Which is no fun," says Castor.

Studio Toer remedied this by using fewer and smaller solar cells that only kept the parasol inflated for as long as it's in direct sunlight. When charged, the panels transfer energy to a 12-volt ventilator positioned at the roof of the umbrella. The ventilator is sewn into the top of the nylon body, and when on, it inflates the Cumulus Parasol in 20 seconds. When the sun is obscured, the parasol automatically deflates. For manual control, there is also a power switch integrated into the pole.

StudioToer-CumulusParasol-2.jpgThe solar cells and fan on top of the parasol


Posted by Carly Ayres  |   4 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


With an elegant silhouette that doesn't scream "DIY," the Zeta Aluminium lamp is a welcome addition to the realm of hardware-free, flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself housewares. Designed by the Florence, Italy-based ZPSTUDIO, the lamp uses a narrow template design to wring maximum utility out of a minimal amount of material—resulting in low cost and little environmental impact.

Zeta Aluminium is actually the second iteration of this project. The original Zeta, released in 2011, was created from sheets of laser-cut poplar. ZPSTUIO'S founders, Eva Parigi and Matteo Zetti, sold the prototype to another design company, but they have now taken back the patent to redevelop the concept into Zeta Aluminium. "We wanted to further extend the early idea to achieve a more advanced, tech-like version," Parigi says.

Zeta Aluminium shares the same principles and silhouette of its predecessor, but instead of wood it uses Dibond, an industrial aluminum composite made of two pre-painted sheets of 0.012-inch-thick aluminum that sandwich a polyethylene core. This is a big upgrade from poplar: Dibond is lighter weight and more durable, and it will not warp or bow the way a sheet of wood might. Plus, the polyethylene core adds an additional layer of friction to hold the pieces together.

ZDStudio-ZetaFlatpackLamp-2.jpgAssembling the original poplar version of the Zeta lamp


Posted by Carly Ayres  |  28 Mar 2014  |  Comments (1)


With the rise of augmented reality (AR) technology, virtual reality headsets like the much buzzed-about Oculus Rift aren't just for playing games in a simulated universe—they can actually help industrial designers do their jobs, too. Four students at the Royal College of Art recently suggested how with Gravity, a 3D sketchpad that they debuted at an RCA exhibition last February.

Right now Gravity exists as a functioning prototype—and it works pretty much exactly how you would imagine. Users don virtual reality glasses and then draw objects in space above the Landing Pad, a handheld glass platform. This space above the Landing Pad is called "GSpace," and it can be comprised of a single drawing or multiple ones. By rotating or tilting the Landing Pad, the user can control the plane the drawing exists on and build out the drawing, much like adding details to a real object in space.

Gravity works by integrating several tracking technologies to be able to pair and synchronize all of the different elements of the system together with the AR glasses, so that the 3D-generated content is overlaid on top of the user's vision in real time. The team has a patent pending on its innovation.

The Gravity team—Guillaume Couche, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Pierre Paslier and Oluwaseyi Sosanya—is currently finishing the beta software and looking for manufacturers for the Landing Pad and the pen. Users will have to provide their own virtual-reality headsets; the developers have been working with AR glasses by the French company Laster, but they're aiming for universal compatibility. "We have recently made our software compatible with Oculus Rift and we are looking into making it work with all the leading-edge AR glasses on the market (that is, with on-board camera and LARGE field of view for immersive AR)," the Gravity team writes in an e-mail. "Gravity is a tool where augmented and virtual realities can be exploded as creation tools. This is why we are trying to make it available for as many platforms as possible. Our idea is to become the universal platform for 3D sketching in AR."


Posted by Carly Ayres  |  21 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


Francesca Gattello was completing her master's in product design at Politecnico di Milano last spring when she decided to enter Scenari di Innovazione (Innovation Scenarios), a competition that tasks students with creating new products for small artisan companies. After visiting many of the contest partners' shops, Gattello was struck by huge sacks of waste outside a marble manufacturing facility, which she learned posed a serious environmental problem. Given the expense of proper disposal, many manufacturers opt to simply pour their stone waste into streams—damaging the local ecosystem. Gattello decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, incorporating stone waste into pure clay sourced from another local shop to create an experimental material that could be used for a line of housewares.

Gattello's project ended up winning the Scenari di Innovazione and, as a reward, she was able to prototype the products proposed. For her line of pots, cups, vases and bowls, dubbed Calcarea, the Verona-based designer drew inspiration from her collaborators' existing products. "I chose to work with Attucci Marmi, a little stone industry, to get the waste, and Rossoramina, a family-run ceramic company, to develop the product concept, the prototypes and the collection," Gattelo says. From Rossoramina, she got the idea for the vessels' distinctive vertical grooves, as well as for using two surface finishes—"a transparent glazed one," Gattello says, "to show the complete claylike production process, and a rough one, which shows the core mixed material, its nature, its visual and tactile qualities."

FrancescaGattello-CalcareaHousewares-2.jpgGattello had to hand-sift the stone waste to remove impurities, a process she hopes to automate for the production run.

FrancescaGattello-CalcareaHousewares-3.jpgThe vessels are made via a combination of mold-casting and hand-turning on a wheel.


Posted by Carly Ayres  |  14 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


Based in Syracuse, New York, Borough Furnace is a small metal-casting workshop founded by cousins John Truex and Jason Connelly. The crux of their operation is the Skilletron, a custom crucible furnace now on its fifth or sixth iteration that melts scrap metal by burning waste vegetable oil.

Truex was first introduced to the world of iron casting via a small cupola furnace, a miniature version of the old coke-fired furnaces that were the staple of industrial iron production for a long time. "Now most U.S. iron production is done in large electric induction furnaces; a lot of Indian and Chinese iron production is still done with large coke-fired cupola furnaces," Truex says. Wanting to create a small batch of cast-iron goods like skillets and bottle openers, Truex and Connelly looked at a variety of furnaces and manufacturing options to see what would make the most sense.

The duo discovered that for the same amount of money they would need to spend on tooling for overseas production they could build out their own micro-foundry and prototyping studio in the States that would also allow them to explore new cast-iron products and objects—retooling and making their own production molds for each new piece. Investigating further, they found that existing cost-effective furnaces like cupolas were restricting in their ability to only cast iron and types of bronze; also, because of the coke fuel, they were extremely dirty. But more expensive crucibles, which can melt aluminum or any other metal cleanly, proved unacceptable in the amount of pollution and fuel the process requires.