Facets of the Maker Movement: repair, fix and hack

When I tell people I’m researching environmental issues in Fab Labs, there is often a mysterious response: “are you being ironic?” Um, no… why?

I’m not sure I understand this reaction. Is it because people see Fab Labs as just obsessed with gadgets, technology driven, focused only on pumping out plastic Yodas and weird electronic contrivances? Well, that is certainly a visible part of makerspaces, and we’d be right to start examining what we are doing in Fab Labs and why. I know I’m not the only one who’d like to see a way to pop that plastic blob that didn’t work back into an extruder, make a new filament out of it, and feed it back into the printer. If I were a coder I’d come up with a solution that could scan a piece of ply or acrylic that has bits laser cut out of it – already while it is sitting in the laser cutter – and then help me plan a new cut so any small pieces I need can come from the parts that will otherwise go to waste. Maybe this already exists somewhere.

But back to my question: what are you comparing, exactly, if it becomes “ironic” to talk about environmentally-conscious making, especially considering the extreme low volumes of material flow in and out of makerspaces? So desktop 3D printers tend to produce a lot of plastic waste, but does focusing on that allow us to ignore the amount of crap that gathers dust on shelves in discount stores, “dollar stores”, or “pound-saver” or “euro-saver” shops? Or consumer products that end up in landfill – whether it is post-consumer waste or pre-consumer waste that never even gets to the shops? What if the comparison is rather the choice between experimenting with fabrication in a makerspace and spending all day in a shopping mall / shopping centre (to which you drove in your private car, of course)? Or doing a workshop in a Fab Lab where you learn to make your own mobile phone, maybe instead of buying a new one? These comparisons are not entirely fair either, but sometimes I get the impression that some believe makerspaces will take people away from making things with their hands. 3D printing is wasteful because people will just go crazy and print out all kinds of plastic rubbish in some experimental frenzy, just because they can – instead of what – their usual routine of sitting by the fire and carving their own cutlery? Yeah, right. I do still contend that the enemy of DIY and handcraft is not digital fabrication but rather the anonymity and cheap prices of mass produced products – and that has been the case for more than one hundred years. Know thine enemy.

So isn’t the route to happiness for all our camps to support handcraft and DIY via makerspaces as an alternative to consumerism and shopping? And to promote craft and artisan skills in the makerspace alongside the digital fabrication skills? This is already happening, partly via the repair movement, which I will get to in a minute. But before I do, let’s get back to this question of irony, attitudes to environmental sustainability, and makers’ and designers’ motivations.

A rather similar topic is “Sustainable Fashion”, which a lot of my colleagues are active in. They also have to always justify this expression and nod their heads: “Oh, yes, yes, what an oxymoron, ‘sustainable’ and ‘fashion’ just don’t go together, yes, yes.” Meanwhile, they have a more accurate and profound understanding of the term ‘fashion’ and its role as a cultural and social phenomenon – which differs from our understanding of ‘fad’. And they know their enemy is “fast fashion” in particular and not the entirety of the thousands of years of human history related to how we chose to clothe ourselves, represent our identities, our cultures, our social class in apparel.

Let’s continue and imagine that our knee-jerk reaction is still to assume that ‘fashion’ just means trendy, faddish, short-term clothes buying and disposal. Clearly unsustainable, right? Well – doesn’t that make it even more important that we figure out how to make it more sustainable? If it is an oxymoron, or an ironic statement, why does it mean something not worth doing?

If Fab Labs are just techy playgrounds and a breeding ground for 3D printers and their reckless offspring, and considering how fast makerspaces are spreading, the DIY and maker movement getting more media attention, and how quickly digital fabrication technologies are developing, shouldn’t we study the environmental issues in making sooner rather than later?

I follow quite a few of the usual maker suspects on Twitter, and particularly the commercial entities’ tweets tend to confirm that tech driven image of the maker movement. The incessant focus on 3D printing in the mass media doesn’t help. What is easily forgotten, though, is why people get into making in the first place: it is often because they are seeking an alternative to mass production and consumerism – and often this is intertwined with environmental consciousness. Click on this link and see how the P2P Foundation defines the Maker Movement. See? Did that surprise you? Did you know that it is “about reusing and repairing objects, rather than discarding them to buy more”? And now do you understand why I find it puzzling that “environment” and “Fab Lab” should be seen as an oxymoron? A Fab Lab might not precisely be “a philosophical idea about what ownership really is”, but it is definitely about giving people the means of developing – and understanding – their own tech rather than just giving them tech. (See Gershenfeld’s book Fab.)

This ethos of the maker movement seems easily lost in the hullabaloo around additive manufacturing, so some writers do feel the need to remind us:

We Need a Fixer (Not Just a Maker) Movement, in Wired

Design for repair: empowering consumers to fix the future, in The Guardian

When recycling is the second-best option, on BBC.

Repair events are spreading from space to space and city to city, and they are notable because they attract a much wider audience than just the hardcore makers and hackers. Protospace in Calgary offered repair events after the city’s big floods last year so people could salvage their electronics. (I’m looking forward to visiting Protospace next month.)

Helsinki’s Trashlab offers a repair event every month in collaboration with the city library, and this is also attracting larger and larger crowds and a lot of media attention. Today, in fact it will be on a consumer programme on TV (they were filming last week) – later available on Areena (in Finnish, viewable only in Finland). So far I have only had clothes to fix, something I could also do at home, but I bring them to Trashlab because it’s much more fun to darn socks when you can chat to friends. Such activity does not always need digital fabrication equipment but sometimes it might come in handy if one needs to make a spare part or component that is trickier to do by hand or has tolerances best met with digital help.

In Fixing therefore I argue we see all kinds of benefits and issues in the maker movement come together: the problems with consumer products and their planned obsolescence, the value of a shared makerspace where people can come together to socialize while learning something, and the advantages of combining digital fabrication capability with electronics knowledge with hand skills. Most importantly, this is how these heroes choose to spend their time. So what if it is quicker to just buy another replacement product? It is so much more rewarding for the fixer to help someone with their broken product, and test their own skills, and for the fixee to learn how something can be repaired and be able to keep what may be a treasured object. And I believe this time is the most valuable currency. It may even turn out to be insurance against the rebound effect in our quest to dematerialize our economies.

3D Printing hype

Especially after the furore created after Defense Distributed created a 3D-printed gun (or rather gun components), there seems to be a huge amount of confused discussion about this technology (or technologies), its benefits and limits, its trajectory, and its actual current role and impact, including who is using it.

I get a bad taste in my mouth when I read enthusiastic rah-rah articles about what people have been 3D printing, especially the ones with a technology determinist bent where materialist progress is the sole measure of a successful society. The most distasteful thing is how these articles usually present utter crap as their representational images. 3D printed plastic shoes, printed badly, no less? Oh, yeah, that’s going to save both the world and the global economy.

But neither do I have any sympathy for the people wailing and gnashing their teeth about the evils of 3D printing. This is because I believe it betrays a vast ignorance of what is actually going on and where the threats and opportunities actually lie. And hey, I’m no expert either, but I think I can detect an expert voice when I hear it. (And here I don’t count the ever-increasing numbers of fora and seminars and platforms for discussing the ethical, social, axiological sides of distributing production – as long as they arm themselves with the facts.)

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. There is a world of difference between digital manufacturing and personal (digital) fabrication, and 3D printers belong in both worlds – but do completely different things. Yes, personal FDM machines are becoming cheaper and easier to use, and people might buy them and print out some plastic crap and then forget about them, but do you really think this poses significant environmental risks when compared to the whole of consumer material flow in mass production? (And I’m pretty sure you can’t print out gun components successfully on a RepRap or Ultimaker.)

So let’s call this world DIY 2.0. Then we have Factory 2.0 where companies are using additive manufacturing technologies (let’s just use the media shorthand of ‘3D printing’ here) in various applications. This has existed for decades, by the way. Especially for prototypes and models but increasingly we’re seeing a shift in terminology from Rapid Prototyping to Rapid Manufacturing. And the most useful applications here seem to be in the biomedical field. I see no Chicken Little The Sky is Falling danger here, culturally, environmentally, socially – but I’m under no illusions that this new method of production is any panacea. I’ve said before that the biggest problems seem to be related to the unknown elements of the materials themselves, especially their toxicity which will have environmental impacts all through the life cycle, including End of Life. And I’m concerned about the ability to mix and fuse elements in additive fabrication (e.g. embedding electronics), which also complicates design for disassembly. But does design for disassembly, design for repair, design for reuse, etc. exist in mass produced consumer products? exclamation point. If we detect the problems beforehand, and especially identify the leverage points, we can (try to) prevent many of these issues from becoming issues.

There have been a couple of recent Economist articles on 3D printing that mention this difference between the consumers/hobbyists and industrial production – focusing especially on what is happening in China and in certain industries such as aerospace. The second article especially clarifies *what* 3D printing is suited for and where it sits in relation to conventional manufacturing. That’s important to remember, and something that is usually neglected in the hype-and-furore. This includes remembering what kinds of activities these are. Are they B2B, or B2C? Becoming C2B?

What is interesting (for me) to monitor here in terms of environmental impact is the change in supply chains, if any. Will production become more local after all, if the Chinese move towards additive manufacturing and mass customization? Will we be able to prevent pre-consumer waste (as we see in the fashion industry) as stuff will be produced according to what customers order, rather than the current model where massive volumes of stuff produced are then pushed onto consumers – and shoved into landfill if the customers don’t want it, or even before it hits the shops?

OK, let’s go back to DIY 2.0. Terry Wohlers is *the* turn-to guy on 3D printing, and he’s not predicting a huge revolution in personal fabrication. He, like a lot of Americans in the field, focuses on education and the role of ‘making’ in promoting math and science education and understanding as well as a new generation of entrepreneurs. But what about entrepreneurs today? The more inexpensive 3D printing and rapid prototyping technologies are, and/or the more access independent designers and creatives (or any other entrepreneur, for that matter) have to them, the more it can help them. I’ve seen this myself in Fab Labs. Nothing wrong with a little distributed, grassroots, niche innovation, even if it doesn’t grow expansively and turn into the next Nokia. (Ah – sorry, the updated Finnish example is now Rovio or Supercell.)

Wohlers also points out another important thing in the Forbes article, the services that are popping up around the Maker Movement. This means that both the entrepreneurs *and* the hobbyists can turn to businesses like Ponoko and Shapeways and iMaterialise to get things made in better quality and better materials. For consumers/hobbyists, this is the fuzzy in-between area between DIY 2.0 and Factory 2.0. Another hype-and-furore thread I find quite amusing / ghastly is directly related to this development: the horror (expressed by professional designers) that people without design training might design their own products. My opinions on that would need a different post on another day, but again, let’s re-examine the scale of this in relation to the dominant consumerist mass production paradigm. Is it really going to grow into a threat, especially in the next, say, ten years? I doubt it.

Designers are also concerned about the legal issues, and this is something quite fascinating to monitor. Regarding concerns over protecting IP and design rights, in this day and age, I laugh heartily in their general direction. (Admitting, all the while, that I make my money from design research and not designing products.) More intriguing, Motherboard (among many others) points out that some laser sintering patents are expiring next year and how Makerbot emerged from the expiration of FDM patents. So something interesting could be on the horizon. In addition, the industry is consolidating. Makerbot was bought by 3D Systems while RepRap remains open source and firmly in the grassroots, experimental, p2p hacker/maker community. These two threads, the commercial and proprietary developments and the open source ones, will be worth following. Open source and open design will always have a role to play in environmental, social and economic sustainability, but that is also a discussion for another day.

If you are keenly following this development, then there is nothing new or surprising here. At any rate, check out the ‘expert voices’ in the links. Some useful stuff there.


‘What Works And What Doesn’t In 3D Printing: A Talk With Terry Wohlers’, in Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rakeshsharma/2013/09/12/what-works-and-what-doesnt-in-3d-printing-a-talk-with-terry-wohlers/ . See also ‘3D Printing Misinformation’ by Wohlers: http://wohlersassociates.com/blog/2013/08/3d-printing-misinformation/

‘Next Year, 3D Printers May Finally Make Something You Want to Keep’, in Motherboard: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/2014-may-be-the-year-3d-printers-make-something-you-want-to-keep

‘From dental braces to astronauts’ seats’, in The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21585005-signs-are-3d-printing-transforming-manufacturing-not-ways-you-might . (Read the comments too, just for fun.)

‘3D printing scales up’, in The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21584447-digital-manufacturing-there-lot-hype-around-3d-printing-it-fast

environmental studies on Additive Manufacturing II

Now I’ll continue with the subject of Additive Manufacturing with a few more studies that address sustainability. The first part of the listing can be found here. Unlike the first list of studies, which mainly involved quantitative data and experimental testing, from my perspective the studies listed below represent much of the research to date on distributed production: i.e. conceptual explorations and theory building with little empirical data or direct testing in the real world. It’s important to note when these papers are conference papers, as conferences are a good forum for testing and hypothesizing, publicizing interim project results, and doing preliminary studies, sometimes in preparation for a later journal paper. But even some of the journal papers tend to be conceptual discussions that mainly rely on secondary data and/or the literature.

Another useful thing to note, at least for me, is how the authors represent the role of the individual (consumer, end-user, etc.) and what input she is ‘allowed’ to contribute. In mass customization planning this would rather coldly and engineering-ly be referred to as the ‘decoupling point’; in the most visionary conceptualizations of design-for-sustainability where co-design and co-creation are the be-all-and-end-all, non-designers are given much more agency to influence the final output. Or so we are given to think. (A cynical mind might suggest that participatory planning can be used as a foil, to co-opt a populace into accepting a decision that in essence had nothing to do with what the populace wanted, a little thing I like to call ‘participation-wash’. Anyway, moving on, let’s leave this cynicism aside for now.)

There also seems to be a common tendency in the literature on distributed production (including mass customization) to assume that co-creation simply is sustainable: co-design = social sustainability just as meeting exact customer needs through customized products via additive manufacturing = environmental sustainability – without delineating why or how. I’d say we need both more data and better argumentation. Still, all these studies are a good start.

Oh, and hey, I know this isn’t a full list. I started by focusing on specific conferences and journals to gauge the coverage in those platforms and to these audiences in particular. I will add useful and representative studies/articles as I find them in other journals. The first one below is a good example, and something I would have expected much earlier. Hopefully it’s a signpost of more to come.


Huang, S.H., Liu, P., Mokasdar, A., Hou, L., 2013. Additive manufacturing and its societal impact: a literature review. Int. J. Adv. Manuf. Technol. 67, 1191–1203.


This is an article I’ve been waiting for! It’s a bit of a continuation from what Drigo and Preza started in 2006 with their review article. (Check the previous post.) There just seems to be too little discussion of this kind in fora where it might make a difference. (I’m pretty sure that online rants about how 3D printing is going to ruin our precious world amount to preaching to the converted, and the rest of the world carries on regardless.) So I’ll spend a little longer on this article summary.

Huang et al. stick to the roots of additive manufacturing (AM): i.e. the producer viewpoint, the mainly B2B world of digital manufacturing, and not getting into the whole issue of personal fabrication and desktop 3D printers. Section 2 gives a good summary of the various AM technologies themselves and then lists the perceived benefits and drawbacks of AM compared to conventional manufacturing methods (in technical/production terms). The authors don’t give any explanation of how they conducted the literature review itself but somehow they have decided on three main categories, categories that do make sense given their theme of ‘societal impact’ and knowing what we do now about where AM is currently most used.

“Abundance of evidences were found to support the promises of additive manufacturing in the following areas: (1) customized healthcare products to improve population health and quality of life, (2) reduced environmental impact for manufacturing sustainability, and (3) simplified supply chain to increase efficiency and responsiveness in demand fulfillment.”

So sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 discuss these areas respectively. Section 3 (Impact on population health and wellbeing) sums up the studies and applications in this area, but it’s not as interesting to me as section 4, Energy consumption and environmental impact. Here the authors cite a few studies trying to conduct environmental analyses, LCA and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) on AM processes – studies that either examine the methods themselves or try to get meaningful results. One study found challenging trade-offs: “new manufacturing processes” could “produce products with longer useful life and/or lower energy consumption during the use phase”, but “make more use of high-exergy value materials in very inefficient ways”. I’m quoting Huang et al. here; this article further quotes the study* itself: “the seemingly extravagant use of materials and energy resources by many newer manufacturing processes is alarming and needs to be addressed….”.

*The study quoted is Gutowski TG, Branham MS, Dahmus JB, Jones AJ, Thiriez A (2009) Thermodynamic analysis of resources used in manufacturing processes. Environ Sci Technol 43:1584–1590.

The authors conclude this section by summarizing a few studies that have examined especially the energy issue, which seems to be the most problematic in comparison to traditional manufacturing, but remind us that too few studies have been conducted to be able to draw firm conclusions. Just before this, the section reviews a few other environmental comparison studies and gives us a couple of useful tables. Table 1 is based on Luo et al. (1999)* and compares traditional machining and various AM technologies, where in the latter we see e.g. less material mass, less pollution, avoidance of other bad stuff entailed in machining such as cutting fluids in waste streams. A few other studies are cited also comparing AM to machining and concluding overall much lower environmental impact from AM. (They’re refs nos. 52 to 55 in the article’s references list.) Table 2 summarizes the conclusions from the ATKINS project report**, a document (and project and research group) that deserves its own section in this write-up. The general conclusion is that, if we compare AM to conventional manufacturing processes “in terms of energy usage, water usage, landfill usage, and the use of virgin materials”, AM has clear environmental advantages in everything except energy consumption, which concurs with pretty much everything else Huang et al. examined. If you don’t check out any other reference or study, do at least have a look at the ATKINS report. (And if you want to know what studies were actually reviewed, check the article’s references list or ask me in the comments to post the references. By the way, I haven’t checked the studies myself so I’m not going to comment on their methods or system boundaries – and I don’t have the expertise to identify methodological problems.)

*Luo YC, Ji ZM, Leu, et al. (1999) Environmental performance analysis of solid freeform fabrication processes. The 1999 IEEE Int Symp on Electron and the Environ. IEEE, NY, pp 1–6
**ATKINS (2007) Manufacturing a low carbon footprint. http://www.atkins-project.com/pdf/ATKINSfeasibilitystudy.pdf. Accessed 16 February 2012.               > The link in the reference seems to be obsolete; try http://www.docstoc.com/docs/36958767/ATKINS-Manufacturing-a-Low-Carbon-Footprint .

OK. Section 5, Impact on manufacturing supply chain, is also interesting to me in terms of monitoring if we are actually moving towards a distributed production paradigm from mass production. (In this context others would prefer the term ‘distributed manufacturing’, but I’m still going to use distributed production to keep the door open to fabbing and making. If I may make yet another diversion, did anyone else notice the disappearance of the ‘Distributed production’ Wikipedia page? We now get redirected to a ‘Distributed manufacturing‘ page, which is much shorter and, I could say, more ‘practical’. Not only that, there was some editorial dispute over whether the page should be deleted altogether. The decision was to keep it, so there it still is. I haven’t yet figured out how to access the now gone Distributed production page.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, supply chains. So the general consensus is that AM processes would change the traditional supply chain, require fewer stages in it, and be thereby able to remove the environmental footprints and impacts of those stages. In this review, researchers tell us that AM technologies are not yet incorporated into especially spare parts supply chains, so two studies cited propose a few approaches or business models for better integration. Another study described four consumer product businesses where consumers order their own customized AM-made stuff. It seems the paper lays out the operations and probably describes the supply chains but doesn’t get into any environmental impact discussion. So this still seems inconclusive, and even fewer studies are being done regarding supply chains.

Section 6 examines Potential health and occupational hazards. This is the hot spot and red light for me, personally, and I regard the authors’ Table 4 (Occupational and environmental effects of different chemicals used in AM processes) to be the best contribution of this paper. They sum up what researchers have concluded in references 67 to 74 (again, ask me in the comments if you want details on these) with regard to human health hazards and biodegradability. They also cite the Drigo and Preza paper (which I mentioned earlier) and state worrying things like:

“Since the majority of the chemicals are long-chain molecules, their biodegradability is very poor and the materials remain in the environment for extended periods of time. Poisonous gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxides are found to be emanated after the breakdown of these chemicals. It has also been predicted that noxious halocarbons (CFCs, HCFCs, CCl4), trichloroethane (CH3CCl3), nickel, and lead compounds might emerge from the operations of AM machines.”

Since other people will surely, eventually, take care of the problems of worker exposure, there’s no clear incentive to tackle the environmental problems, related to emissions, biodegradability, etc. that may differ from the health hazards. Especially when AM materials start to enter maker spaces in institutions and people’s homes, I’m sure we’ll start to see some awareness raising. Yesterday I attended a 3D printing event in Helsinki and asked an AM expert about the toxicity issues. He said, first of all, that in biomedical applications biocompatibility is obviously considered and his team works with medical doctors and similar experts. With other materials and AM applications, he admitted that there isn’t much research on it. He did add that his team also works with the occupational health and safety authorities in their research, though, so this could be (should be) best practice for any digital manufacturing development team. Note to self: interview this guy later this year.

Ah, I can’t resist yet another diversion. The event I attended was this Audi ADDLab thing, and ADDLab has one of those mcor rapid prototypers that uses ordinary A4 paper and ordinary glue to cut out 3D forms. This does seem to create a lot of paper waste, but the waste AND results can be put into the ordinary paper recycling process (and would not seem to have other unforeseen toxic effects associated with other materials). One of the ADDLab researchers said that, of all the 3D printers they have, and they do have quite a few, they are still exploring with this one to see what it could best be used for. Since it’s subtractive, not additive, you wouldn’t be able to get the complexity of shape as was coming out of the Bits from Bytes behind me, he pointed out. But things like architectural scale models and other types of prototypes seemed obvious and possible: the researcher said that a computer mouse prototype had been done for e.g. ergonomic testing. What is even more interesting is that Staples is using this solution to offer prototyping in their stores, or at least a pilot. I hope someone does a study on their customers and what they do with this service. Ordinary people have office paper recycling in their everyday habits (at least in Finland); they do not have easy access to recycling facilities for Ultimaker, MakerBot, etc. filaments and failed 3D prints. (And this project shows how tricky re-using plastic in a RepRap can be.) (and in English)

OK, returning to Huang et al., the last thing I’ll point out is that the authors are associated jointly with two Chinese universities and the University of Cincinnati. More environmentally responsible digital manufacturing in China could mean a big shift…


Diegel, O., Singamneni, S., Reay, S., Withell, A., 2010. Tools for Sustainable Product Design: Additive Manufacturing. Journal of Sustainable Development 3, 68–75.


In this article, additive manufacturing has clear environmental benefits and enables much better practice for especially designers but also the consumers they design for. The authors propose that “sustainable product design” needs to focus more on ensuring product longevity in order to combat the environmental problems currently exacerbated by “the consumerist’s ‘throw away’ mentality” and “planned obsolescence”. They allow that in such an emerging field a quantifiable link between product longevity and personalization/customization has not yet been established but anecdotal data seems to indicate this direction. The paper is therefore a conceptual discussion, maybe even a ‘position paper’.

Writing as designers for designers, they offer additive manufacturing technologies and mass customization as increasingly necessary (or inevitable) ‘tools’ in a designer’s toolbox and ways to ensure longevity. They argue that in design, not only the “technical quality” of a product is important but also “the less tangible ‘desirability’ of a product, ‘pleasure of use’ of a product, as well as the ‘attachment’ of a user to a product”. These characterize “design quality”, a notion they argue is neglected in design-for-sustainability. They further argue that mass manufacturing also compromises design quality, through technical compromises that need to be made in design as well as the generic nature of mass-manufactured products.

Therefore, the authors propose, additive manufacturing holds potential to both ensure design quality and better conform to sustainability principles, by lessening the need to compromise and offering a truer realization of the “designer’s vision” (i.e. enhancing design quality from the perspective of professional design) – and by offering mass customization possibilities that can impact the desirability and hence longevity of the product (i.e. enhancing the customer’s perception and reception of design quality). Moreover they wish to support an individual designer’s need for professional development, self-fulfilment, and continued employment; they highlight how product designs must reflect how they are fabricated and that digital technologies will produce new design typologies. The authors conclude by summarizing new considerations when designing for additive manufacturing and indicating future directions for research: the potential need to adapt current design-for-sustainability tools to fit the “new paradigm of on-demand manufacturing” and even possible revision of “some of the frameworks about what constitute sustainability”.


Fox, S., Li, L., 2012. Expanding the scope of prosumption: A framework for analysing potential contributions from advances in materials technologies. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 79, 721–733. 


This is an intriguing article that approaches additive manufacturing from the perspective of materials. The authors aim to examine prosumption (note the explicit use of this term in an engineering context, not a sociological one) through a technological forecasting exercise, putting forth an analytical framework for roadmapping material technologies: their fundamental characteristics and by implication their potential to contribute to the advancement of certain socio-technical practices such as prosumption. In other words, certain materials are restricted by their nature to large processing facilities with significant capital investments and are thus less conducive to distributed production. (Think of steel processing.)

The authors introduce the term “authority” over design and production to describe the agency individuals have to provide design and/or production inputs; they contrast the ability of individuals to acquire original, one-off goods with many mass customization processes that merely offer the ability to “configure from a range of pre-designed components”. Prosumption is referred to as an “important social change” influenced by both technology push and market pull; the underlying, unspoken premise seems to accept prosumption as a positive development worth fostering. The authors use their framework to elucidate the bottlenecks and channels of potential for prosumption development, as linked to current and emerging production and material technologies, cost (i.e. ‘economy‘), and production times, and to subsequently identify areas of promise for material research. Because prosumption patterns just might correlate with a localization of production and/or materials, the authors do mention the environmental benefit of lower transport emissions.

The authors see both entrepreneurs and regional development authorities as targets for their framework, a tool to support local economies in “developing countries” as well as post-industrial contexts. The point of the framework is to enable analysis/comparison of manufacturing methods that would hit an optimal combination of ‘authority’ and ‘economy’: people would get personalized stuff at a non-prohibitive cost. In the analysis examples the authors provide, additive manufacturing technologies play a prominent role in this authority/economy trade-off.

“In particular, DMLS [Direct Metal Laser-Sintering, to produce one-off, personalized watch casings in this example] makes contributions to meeting key criteria for expanding the scope of prosumption, because it better enables safe and simple production of person-specific/location-specific geometries.”

Their choice of language is difficult to understand without reading the whole article, but person-specific/location-specific geometries is what distributed production is all about. In sum, prosumption is great! We want it. The people want it too. If you want to succeed at it, get the right material technology going, this very well could be AM, and we might just see some environmental benefits too, associated with localizing production. Craft and artisan skills in production will decline because they’re too expensive, but that’s another story.


Pearce, J.M., Blair, C.M., Laciak, K.J., Andrews, R., Nosrat, A., Zelenika-Zovko, I., 2010. 3D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development. Journal of Sustainable Development 3, 17–29.


This paper is an interesting comparison and contrast to the previous one on advanced material technologies. It’s a conceptual exploration of additive manufacturing as an “appropriate technology” (AT) for economies in the global South. Environmental sustainability benefits are not explicitly described but are embedded in descriptions of socio-economic opportunities enabled through additive manufacturing technologies – especially when offered in local, small lab and peer-to-peer operations. Moreover open source as a philosophy for design and development can allow access to and evolvement of appropriate technologies. The authors therefore focus on two open source additive technologies (two small-size 3D printers), describing their attributes and potential applications. In particular, 3D printing is appropriate for components that are

“i) small,

ii) highly customizable,

iii) expensive to manufacture/ship,

iv) difficult to transport,

v) have a large lead time,

vi) do not require precise machining and can handle small imperfections, and

vii) can be made from available, cheap, and technically viable feed stocks.”

The authors then list the functional requirements needed and barriers to overcome to truly fulfil 3D printers’ potential to be an open source appropriate technology. This paper is unique in being one of only few I’ve found to take truly peer-to-peer relationships into account as an option to design and produce solutions. Like the Diegel et al. paper above, it’s not an empirical study per se but more of a conceptual exploration.


The following papers discuss – not necessarily additive manufacturing but – other digital manufacturing technologies common in making and fabbing.


Steffen, D., Gros, J., 2003. Technofactory versus Mini-Plants: Potentials for a decentralized sustainable furniture production. Presented at the MCPC03: 2nd International Conference on Mass Customization and Personalization, October 6-8 2003, Munich, Germany.


These authors write from the point of view of championing small furniture businesses that come from a crafts trade tradition. The (conference) paper reports on a research project that sought to strengthen the position of these skilled trade businesses. These companies have the opportunity to combine their traditional skills and offerings with digital tools and production processes, differentiating themselves from industrial players that are beginning to also offer customization services through their existing high quality craft and trade competence. The authors present a vision they call “neo-craft” and post-industrial, where they list the economic and environmental benefits of their model: locally available and customized products and services, high quality materials and processes, and designs incorporating possibilities for repair and adaptation, all of which encourage product durability. The project involved actual company partners and was therefore the first steps in realizing what would be needed for such a neo-craft vision of “technofacture”, from the perspective of regional development. If their audience is the field of mass customization, this is one of few papers in that realm that recognizes and boosts the concept of virtual products, where immaterial product designs become as important as material artefacts. Like Diegel et al. (2010) above, they also mention how the technology dictates the design and designers and/or artisans should learn how to design and craft for digital fabrication. But also like Diegel et al. (2010) the professional designer is still in control: they explicitly adopt the term “co-designer” to “express the increasing influence of the customer on the design”, meaning the measurements, materials, colours and surface design elements, but this seems to denote a limited range of design input predetermined by a design team and post-realized by a producer.


Black, S., Eckert, C., 2007. Developing Considerate Design: Meeting Individual Fashion and Clothing Needs within a Framework of Sustainability, in: Mitchell, W.J., Piller, F.T., Tseng, M., Chin, R., McClanahan, B.L. (Eds.), Extreme Customization. Proceedings of the MCPC 2007 World Conference on Mass Customization & Personalization. Presented at the MCPC 2007 World Conference on Mass Customization and Personalization, October 7-9, 2007,  at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Black, S., Delamore, P., Eckert, C., Geesin, F., Watkins, P., Harkin, S., 2010. Considerate Design for Personalised Fashion: towards sustainable fashion design and consumption, in: Suominen, J., Piller, F., Ruohonen, M., Tseng, M., Jacobson, S. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Mass Customization & Personalization MCPC 2009, Helsinki Oct 4-8, 2009, Publication Series B 102. Presented at the Mass Matching – Customization, Configuration & Creativity, Aalto University School of Art and Design, Helsinki.


These two (conference) papers seek to link environmental responsibility with local business development, augmented by digital technologies and personalization strategies, in their Considerate Design Project. This project emphasizes design more than regional development, by developing and testing tools for fashion designers. It, like the furniture project above, justifies its target and scope as supporting an economically and culturally significant industry – and it involved company partners – but sets its rationale more strongly in combating the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry. The authors therefore maintain the representation of sustainability as an interlinking among the economic (jobs, company revenue, product pricing, etc.), the social (personal identity, product meanings, the designer’s ability to perform, etc.) and the environmental (pollution, emissions, waste, etc.). Personalization of products is seen as holding potential for more sustainable behaviour and production/consumption patterns, enacted through consumer input (personal preferences and/or body measurements), and enabled by body scanning and rapid prototyping technologies that are taken as the default operating environment in which designers will work.


That’s all for this post; more and more studies seem to be coming out and I’ll summarize what I find in a future post.

On libraries, librarians, and having a narrative brain. Oh, and making. (And ugly buildings.)

A few weeks ago Geoff Bowker was in Aalto ARTS lecturing in Lily Diaz‘s Spring School. Along the way he mentioned the contrast of database versus narrative (à lá Manovich), which lit up a few bulbs of insight and understanding in my head – including the way I myself seem to organize and convey certain types of information. If I tend towards narrative forms, it would explain why I’m having such a devilish time with a literature review I’m now writing: trouble with the categorizing, trouble with the order of presentation and hence trouble with the analysis-through-writing. Nevertheless I struggle on – as I do with all kinds of other database problems in my life. What tags and categories should I use for this blog? What tags and notebooks should I use in Evernote? What folders do I have in Zotero for my references and why do they differ from the ones I established earlier in my ‘Design Research’ folder in my laptop? Why did my logic and keywords change? (Is it merely the semantic shifts occurring in a rapidly developing research field or a deeper shift in how I understand the field and the ones surrounding it?) How should I best order all the other files and folders in my laptop? And what about my email folders? It’s never-ending.

So maybe it’s good I didn’t decide to become a librarian. My narrative-favouring brain cannot entirely grasp what all librarians do and what libraries do and can offer, but luckily I seem to live in one of the best cities in the world for public library innovation. This slide show from the Helsinki City Library Director in 2011 gives an indication of how far Helsinki public libraries are (and are heading) from the traditional notion of well-thumbed books and the Dewey decimal system. In Helsinki, “users can be suppliers too, ‘prosumers'”. This idea of increased peer production offers both opportunities and challenges. Check out slide 25 on the Central Library project: a building coming to Töölönlahti in the city centre in 2018. “New information search, participation and knowledge creation practices.” “Development of new information aggregation business models.” “Multiscientific and multicultural laboratory of change.” “Open learning living lab in the center of the metropolitan area.” Isn’t that exciting!? We live in exhilarating times.

Central Library project

Screenshot from library presentation. Copyright Helsinki City Library










Slides 26 and 27 are equally compelling:

Drivers of library development

Screenshot from library presentation: Drivers of library development. Copyright Helsinki City Library

Drivers of library development

Screenshot from library presentation: Drivers of library development. Copyright Helsinki City Library



















This column written by an American librarian sums up the traditional versus evolving library discussion from the librarian’s point of view. (Hmmm, maybe we need a new word for that profession.) She lists a few services her library offers including various types of courses and classes and – here it is – maker spaces.

Michel Bauwens of the peer-to-peer foundation says he used to be a librarian himself and gives a talk to librarians as audience here (video). If you know his work, have heard him lecture, and/or know p2p discourse then there’s probably nothing too new here, but if you *do* want to know more about peer-to-peer theory-building-in-action do watch his lectures online and explore the p2p foundation website. In this talk he gives the basics of peer production: peer property and copyright, peer governance versus command-and-control hierarchies, from open software to open design (at about 19:44), the relationship between open design and sustainability (from about 20:21), digital production and reproduction, where the money is, and the sharing economy (from 34:26).

At 37:05 he starts talking about making and personal fabrication, paralleling it with the earlier miniaturization and distribution of the personal computer – a significant development that put production back into our own hands and made us ‘craftsmen’ again. Now we are seeing the rise of “distributed material production” that he sees as key to solving the problems posed by the industrial mass production paradigm – built as it is upon a foundation of cheap oil.

And finally (at about 48:34) he gets to libraries’ role in constructing knowledge as opposed to just storing knowledge: a place to find not only support for this new knowledge creation and peer production but to actually provide the infrastructure and physical space for these cooperative activities. Pretty much what we see in the Helsinki library slides.

Well, if you’re in the library field or following maker culture this is old news. When looking for that Bauwens talk I came across this blog entry from the same year (2011) reporting on the first library to open a maker space. (Wow, 2012 just sped by, didn’t it?) Again, new types of literacy, new ways to support and serve communities. (For the narrative brains: similar stories. For the database brains: same keywords.)

So back to this new central library. Why Helsinki is all abuzz about #libraries is that the architectural competition has concluded and the winner has been chosen. Here it is in English and see also this short news piece on it.


‘Käännös’. Source of image: http://keskustakirjasto.fi/2013/06/14/kaannos-voitti-keskustakirjaston-arkkitehtuurikilpailun/

This library will also have a maker space and to that end a small pilot space having a couple of 3D printers is already up and running and collecting feedback (the link is in Finnish). A team of us were also asked to contribute to this knowledge building – about what making will be like when the library is ready. Five years forward in maker culture could see radical changes in practices and technologies, and it isn’t useful to plan a space based on technologies and trends prevalent in 2013. Professor Sampsa Hyysalo therefore planned a workshop partly based on ‘Lead User’ workshop tactics and partly on principles borrowed from Participatory Design – in order to most effectively collect ideas from a diverse community: those that are living that maker future already now, as well as those that are likely to be key users of the library maker space and facilities. This ensured varied views and expert opinions on everything from the practical and technical considerations to legal issues, community-related aspects, and ethico-philosophical concerns. Lead User research experts Pia Helminen and Samuli Mäkinen came in as facilitators and will contribute their perspective on the workshop as an information gathering tool in future analyses. The sustainability issues in 2020 maker culture were also crucial for a public actor, who must be seen as acting responsibly. Therefore also addressing sustainability in the workshop yielded double benefits: fruitful information for the library and data for my doctoral research.

One write-up after the workshop can be accessed here. The library people jumped into the data immediately and found relevant trends and solutions to keep in mind for their current pilot space now as well as that future maker space.

Finally, a few words on the Central Library competition winner. It’s a building that not only heralds a new era in our conception of public libraries, it’s one located in a contentious area of Helsinki, the Töölönlahti. Those of us who have been active in grassroots art and cultural activities in the area shed tears as we see the urban cultural diversity, biodiversity and architectural fabric desiccate, bled away in what we see as a worrying favouring of private development and corporate interests. Corruption in Finland takes on its own special aroma. [1]

Will the new Central Library enhance the Töölönlahti milieu and become the city’s living room, as promised, or contribute to the High Culture, High Government, High Capitalism monumentalism currently holding sway? The building trend and over-designed plan for Töölönlahti now completely weakens the spirit of the place – but it does not emasculate it, if this verb means to weaken; to the contrary, all that testosterone means too much masculus and not enough femininus in my view.

Some Facebook comments show mixed feelings (apologies for the bad translations):
“I think no central library should be built at all.”
“I think so too, but at least that wood thing could cover up those horrible office buildings.”

“Alvar Aalto spirit, but is that good or bad?”

“It’s very masculine. There’s no natural light coming in, except maybe to the upper floor from the ceiling, even though the wood itself is a great element – as in it’s great looking, as for the practicality I don’t know. … And it is nice that Töölönlahti will be something accessible to all.”

“I think this building could save the Töölönlahti environment. Now the buildings look like peripheral small-town airport terminals.”

“I think it is gorgeous. Although architecture is like a human being. A stunning exterior is nothing if it does not work.”

“I am now excited about this library! The great news is that the financing seems to be arranged. This is an excellent use of tax money. Culture is important, and the library is a facility that reaches a very large part of the population. Finland’s libraries’ perfect and unique functioning can now have a well-deserved figurehead. And I’m with Arhinmäki [Finland’s Culture Minister] regarding the fact that we need a non-commercial meeting space, comfortable, open, and free, in the city centre. And this will certainly serve this need just fine. Today’s best news!”

This newspaper survey reports its readers (i.e. the Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s biggest daily) mainly think the library is ‘necessary’ and ‘beautiful’ as opposed to ‘unnecessary’ and ‘ugly’ (see all the dots in the top right corner). You can see the reader comments (in Finnish) by scrolling over the various dots. For example: “Not exactly ugly but too massive.”


Käänös. Source of image: http://www.hs.fi/kaupunki/Onko+keskustakirjasto+kaunis+vai+ruma+Arvioi+HSn+nelikentällä/a1305687271507

As you can tell, I’m quite impassioned about the Töölönlahti area, as well as the potential of the Central Library. But this becomes a whole other topic (one I will address in a separate project in my free time outside my doctoral research).

In the meantime, we have made the first steps into the maker 2020 workshop data analysis (and there’s a lot to consider) and the results will be both transmitted to the library and into journal articles to different academic audiences. Watch this space.

By the way, ‘Käännös’ – the library building name – means ‘Translation’. Sink your little analytical teeth into that one, database and narrative brains.


[1] That was so strongly worded I’d better put in an addendum. I DO not mean that there is corruption in the dealings between city officials and real estate developers/corporate head offices in Töölönlahti. There IS corruption in other areas of society where Finnish politicians and businessmen don’t understand responsible use of power, to the dismay and surprise of a trusting populace. In both cases the business sector and the role of money in measuring value have too strong an influence, but in the latter this has crossed the legal/illegal line (to the probable dismay and surprise of the politicians charged).

Shaping Sustainability in Fab Labs

ABSTRACT: This paper presents a narrative case study describing interactions in one Fab Lab in Helsinki, Finland. The intent is to reveal how (or if) sustainability concerns are socially shaped within an organization in the same way participatory innovation can be shaped. The contribution of the paper is two-fold. First, it augments understanding of environmental impacts and attitudes in Fab Labs; secondly it describes how peer learning is encouraged in Labs, thereby setting the stage for participatory innovation in what is – in essence – a novel infrastructure for product development. The preliminary findings suggest pathways that can lead towards participatory invention or innovation as well as environmentally responsible practice.

The paper is forthcoming published in the Participatory Innovation Conference Proceedings, PIN-C 2013 in Lahti, Finland, 18-20 June 2013.

I‘ll be presenting presented in Track 3, Social Shaping of Innovation.

You can find the paper here: pin-c-2013-Kohtala_SustainabilityFabLabs

Full Proceedings here: http://www.lut.fi/documents/27578/292022/PIN-C+2013_Proceedings_HQ.pdf/17fa385b-cc30-4ae4-82a6-59308a80d503

Kohtala, C., 2013. Shaping Sustainability in Fab Labs, in: Melkäs, H., Buur, J. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Participatory Innovation Conference PIN-C 2013, LUT Scientific and Expertise Publications, Tutkimusraportit – Research Reports No. 6. Presented at the Participatory Innovation Conference 2013, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Lahti, Finland, pp. 287–290.

environmental studies on Additive Manufacturing I

There is evident need for more research on the environmental impacts of fabbing and making, especially regarding such new processes and materials. Studies are beginning to trickle out, however; each study adds a new piece to an admittedly large and complex puzzle.

I’ll list some of these studies here and hopefully you can access them. (Many of them are in journals or conference proceedings hidden behind a paywall.) These address various aspects in Additive Manufacturing technologies.

It’s important to note that these are usually technologies used in Rapid Prototyping and NOT the kind of stuff we see in a Fab Lab: i.e. desktop, open source Fused Deposit Modelling equipment. And not necessarily finished products or B2C markets, hence the name Rapid Prototyping.

Still, what happens in AM will be relevant to both the development of the personal desktop versions as well as to mass customizers, who are increasingly interested in AM/RM technologies – not to mention the platforms like Shapeways and i.materialise, who already use these systems to make finished products for end-customers and not prototypes.

Drizo, A. & Pegna, J., 2006. Environmental impacts of rapid prototyping: an overview of research to date. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 12(2), pp.64–71.

According to Drizo and Pegna rapid prototyping (RP) or rapid manufacturing (RM) is one of the fastest growing manufacturing technologies but represents less than ten per cent of the total manufacturing sector. Despite a pressing need for more knowledge on the sustainability issues in this area and more study on how to perform environmental impact assessment (EIA), “it is not surprising that the demand for conducting EIA has not received much attention to date”. They present an overview on impact assessment methods, urgent unresolved issues, and the limited coverage of the topic in the literature. One EIA method for instance divided processes into life stages similar to the approach in LCA (life cycle analysis) but geared to RP processes. Assessments using the method allowed identification of key parameters that influenced the technology’s environmental performance.

Three areas that Drizo and Pegna especially emphasize are health and safety, waste, and energy. The authors specifically highlight and write at length about the health and environmental risks due to the toxicity of RP materials and solvents that have not yet been identified. Connected to this are the impacts associated with disposal, as the producers of some of these materials only recommend “incineration and landfilling”. Claims are also made that additive manufacturing can minimize waste, but at the time of writing few studies had been conducted. (Even in 2013 this knowledge gap still exists.) Moreover, there may be issues with the materials after processing that negatively affect their inclusion in closed loop processes. The authors close by offering areas for future research: materials (their toxicity, development of more sustainable materials, etc.), energy consumption, and more comparisons between conventional manufacturing and rapid manufacturing (also in mass customization) to validate claims of less waste and fewer environmental impacts.

Franco, A., Lanzetta, M. & Romoli, L., 2010. Experimental analysis of selective laser sintering of polyamide powders: an energy perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18, pp.1722–1730.

Franco, Lanzetta and Romoli examine energy consumption in Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) through experiment and theoretical modelling, building also on findings and models in other studies not listed in this post (see their references section). They also lament the lack of research done on environmental performance of “laser assisted manufacturing processes relative to the traditional manufacturing methods”.

Since SLS offers the advantage of fabricating very complex parts without needing moulds (in fact, some of the things we’re seeing produced today simply *cannot* be produced with conventional means), these authors emphasize that part accuracy must be an important parameter – and that very few studies have considered the connection between part accuracy and energy-related data. They propose an energy density range (of 0.06-0.08 J/mm2 for the polymer tested) at which “the SLS parts can connect the objective of good dimensional accuracy, good volumetric productivity and reduced energy intensity”. Too high an energy density affects the process’s productivity as it doesn’t actually contribute to the sintering process. One implication of this, according to the authors, is the potential to eliminate the pre-heating phase: important, since most of the energy is consumed by the chamber heaters.

Mognol, P., Lepicart, D. & Perry, N., 2006. Rapid prototyping: energy and environment in the spotlight. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 12(1), pp.26–34.

Mognol, Lepicart and Perry compare three rapid prototyping systems (two 3-D Printing – 3DP – and one SLS system) with the aim to identify the parameters that affect electrical energy consumption, concluding that manufacturing time is the most important. They tested printing of the same part in the three pieces of equipment and in a variety of positions. In two of the machines, reducing the manufacturing time (and thereby energy consumption) was best effected by minimizing the height of the part. The third machine actually has an optimization feature built into it: “the computer calculates the longest diagonal of the part and begins the manufacture at this straight line”, a design that allows faster fabrication. Increased electricity consumption comes instead with a build that requires support, and the authors therefore recommend minimizing the volume of support with this system as the parameter that matters.

By optimizing these parameters as described in the article, electricity consumption was reduced from 43 to 61 per cent depending on the system. What is interesting is the implicit finding that the authors don’t point out as a future area of research and/or development: this idea that environmental impacts can be designed in or OUT of a technology. Besides the optimization of fabrication time mentioned above (i.e. the computer finding the longest diagonal), the authors also point out how a different system ‘waits’ between layers (as it prepares the following layer with the ‘scraper’) so that the manufacturing time is actually made up of “a long waiting time and a short laser sintering time”. The long printing times in AM are quite notorious, so it can’t be too long before more AM equipment manufacturers begin to try to optimize this element: longer printing times usually = money as well as = electricity consumption. This is an area I don’t know well – what the commercial systems do and don’t do at the moment. But one can imagine that there are all kinds of other benefits for producers that have environmental benefits embedded in them, such as material saving and re-use (since RP materials are also more expensive than conventional manufacturing raw materials). See the next article on that subject.

Dotchev, K. & Yusoff, W., 2009. Recycling of polyamide 12 based powders in the laser sintering process. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 15(3), pp.192–203.

Dotchev and Yusoff study the deterioration of polyamide 12 (PA12) powder properties in the laser sintering process (LS) in relation to the temperature and the time during which the material is exposed. They propose a methodology for more efficient powder recycling that also allows more control over fabrication quality and avoids the known ‘orange peel’ texture that occurs if the powder has been recycled many times and/or doesn’t contain a certain amount of new material. What happens currently, according to the authors, is that producers tend to use a high proportion of new material just to avoid the poor ‘orange peel’ surface – without taking into account the used powder’s “thermal history” and therefore scrapping a lot of used powder – in accordance with suppliers’ recommendations. This is both a cost for the producer, since the material costs are high, especially in comparison with conventional injection moulding, and a potential environmental issue “in case of future RM [rapid manufacturing] expansion”. This methodology therefore aims to clarify the relationship between powder degradation and its thermal history by “powder management” – based on measuring the melt flow rate (MFR) of molten PA12 powder.

Telenko, C. & Seepersad, C.C., 2012. A comparison of the energy efficiency of selective laser sintering and injection molding of nylon parts. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 18(1), pp.472–481.

The aim of Telenko and Seepersad’s study is to determine the ‘crossover’ production volume at which it makes sense to produce a part using selective laser sintering (SLS) rather than conventional injection moulding (IM). As the authors point out, there have been studies on this issue regarding financial cost, but not studies according to energy consumption or life cycle inventory (LCI) estimates. In other words there are still hypotheses bouncing around that additive manufacturing (AM) is more ‘sustainable’ than conventional manufacturing but empirical evidence is lacking – and the authors cite Drizo and Pegna (described above) who said the same thing way back in 2006. This study attempts to fill this gap regarding the energy efficiency of SLS compared to IM – and, as the title suggests – using a nylon part as point of comparison.

On the one hand SLS does consume a significant amount of energy. On the other, IM needs a fabricated mould and the accompanying material and energy investments, which means that the producers want to produce [and then sell] a huge amount of the parts/goods to be able to off-set the cost of the mould. SLS allows small production batches at the same cost per piece and in fact – the benefit of AM – allows customization of each piece or each batch to an extent that IM can never reach.

The authors conclude that production with SLS is more energy efficient than IM only with very small production volumes. In this particular study, the crossover production volume – where SLS and IM consumed the same amount of energy – was 150 to 300 parts. The authors also give three recommendations for reducing the energy consumption of SLS (related to optimizing the build height, managing the powder use and recycling, and reducing the time needed for scan and preparation).

Marchelli, G. et al., 2011. The guide to glass 3D printing: developments, methods, diagnostics and results. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 17(3), pp.187–194.

Marchelli, Prabhakar, Storti and Ganter report on their experiments with Three-Dimensional Printing (3DP) and glass. Both SLS and 3DP can use metal and ceramic as materials, but glass has not been utilized in AM. Moreover the authors wish to enable the use of recycled glass as a more sustainable route and include testing of recycled glass powder. In fact, the authors report that as a direct result of their research (at the University of Washington) “industry professionals have exploited recycled glass as a printing medium with Shapeways” and another company (EnVitrum) uses 3DP recycled glass prototypes for green building solutions.

The article summarizes the data and findings for 3DP recycled glass (“shrinkage, apparent porosity, bulk density as functions of peak firing temperature”) and presents information on “how to create the powder binder, which particle sizes are best suited for 3DP, and how to diagnose and optimize printing saturation”. Saturation settings can also be found at Open3D Printing open3dp.me.washington.edu/. (This URL was given in the article and is the lab’s blog. It’s an interesting blog to follow but I haven’t yet found the data they mentioned. Here is one entry that might help: open3dp.me.washington.edu/2009/09/3dp-glass-recipe/.)


Summer Seminar: About the Participants


See the seminar programme here.

Cindy Kohtala is a Canadian-born researcher at Aalto University, Department of Design, NODUS Sustainable Design Research Group. Her doctoral research focuses on distributed production and the ecological, economic and cultural opportunities and threats inherent in personal fabrication practices (the ‘Maker Economy’). She is the chair and co-founder of o2 Finland ry, the founder and coordinator of Helsinki Green Drinks, and the working group leader of Helsinki Green Map. She teaches in the Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme in Aalto University.
Her aim with this seminar is to bring questions about open design, personal fabrication, and the Maker Movement to the general public via the World Design Capital Pavilion programme. The seminar is also a platform for the discrete maker communities in Helsinki to meet each other and discuss crucial present and future issues regarding creativity, quality, craftsmanship, ecology, ethics, collaboration, peer production and responsibility.
email cindy (dot) kohtala (at) aalto (dot) fi

Austrian-born Erich Berger is an artist and cultural worker based in Helsinki. His interests lie in information processes and feedback structures which he investigates through installations, situations, performances and interfaces. His work has been shown and produced internationally and has received a number of awards. Currently he is a lecturer at Vienna’s Akademie der bildenden Künste and the director of the of the Finnish Society of Bioart in Helsinki.
The Finnish Society of Bioart (established May 2008 in Kilpisjärvi) is an organisation supporting, producing and creating activities around art and natural sciences, especially biology. It fosters public discussions about biosciences, biotechnologies and bioethics. Additionally it is the Finnish contact node in international networks of bioart and art&science. It has currently 45 members, representing different art and scientific research fields as well as other expertise.



Päivi Raivio is one of the coordinators of Kääntöpöytä / Turntable, an urban garden and a greenhouse situated in Pasila, built on a unused railway turntable and near the site where Dodo’s urban gardening activities started off in 2009. Kääntöpöytä is an urban farming centre that aims to operate as an open test lab and source for learning and inspiration. It also has a cafe, which supports the project towards being self sustaining.

Ramyah is a New Media Designer based in Helsinki, Finland. Her education and work experience are multi-disciplinary in nature and she has worked on projects ranging from visual communication, interaction design, filmmaking, animation and interactive & mobile media.
A recent graduate from the Media Lab Helsinki of the Aalto University, she is currently researching and working in the field of electronic textiles and soft devices as a continuation to her Master’s thesis work. She is interested in exploring the interactions and roles emerging from the integration of traditional textiles and new computational devices where handicrafts meet technology.
Lately she has collaborated with Kati Hyyppä forming a group called “e-crafts collective” that explores open design, traditional knowledge exchange and cultural heritage using the context of e-textiles.
email ramyah (at) narrativize (dot) net

Eco-design with the cool-factor. EDEL City has made it its mission to develop the best eco-luxury design for its customers. Its focus on high-design and stylish urban look is a welcome departure from other green design concepts. Following the slogan “Spoil yourself, without spoiling the environment”, EDEL City offers Finnish design products made from recycled or organic raw materials. Regular recycling-design workshops held at their flagship store are open to all.

Katharina Moebus is a design activist, blogger and independent researcher interested in creating positive societal impacts using dialogue and co-creative bottom-up actions with communities. Currently, she is working at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, exploring Emerging Design Practices. During her studies and work practice in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Laos, she has moved across disciplines with projects ranging between installation art, interior and exhibition design, graphic design, comic art, food activism, urban interventions and environmental art. She believes that design has the potential to inspire and enable positive action and creative self-confidence.

Koelse is an association of experimental electronics and a group of experimental electronics enthusiasts. The group gathers old consumer electronics and transforms them into sound producing devices. With these devices they play concerts, build installations and teach others how to build similar things. Koelse’s projects have been seen and heard around Europe in festivals, museums, galleries and alternative art spaces since 2002.
Trashlab events explore experimental art-design-technology practice between hacker and maker cultures, in the context of re/up-cycling and the increased availability of new fabrication tools. Trashlab’s objective is to build up a community of people (artists, designers, hackers, makers, re/up-cyclers, activists) who are concerned with material and electronic waste in contemporary society, and tackle this problem with creative and tangential approaches.
On a monthly basis in 2012, a multifaceted set of groups (Koelse, Kokomys, local Helsinki makers initiating the process) will bring their practice to Aalto Media Factory, and other locations, Oranssi’s Valvomo, Polymer Cultural Factory (Tallinn), Wasteland Festival (Kouvola) over the year. They (and Pixelversity) aim to encourage a peer-based learning environment related to hacking electronics, appropriate technology for renewable energy production/usage, digital fabrication and re/up-cycling materials.

Harri is a researcher, hackerspace facilitator and DIY culture advocate. Harri is a founding member of Helsinki Hacklab – a shared social workshop with tools to design and tinker all kind of DIY projects. In two years Helsinki Hacklab has gathered active local community and helped other similar workshops to emerge in different parts of Finland. Helsinki Hacklab organizes public events such as electronics workshops and collaborates with many other parties like artists and public organizations.
WÄRK:fest is an urban weekend festival for different Do-It-Yourself communities and people interested in learning new skills and getting new ideas.

Miska Knapek is a graphic information designer interested in and furthering Open Design practice. He spends most his time furthering public access to information about society, learning and government, as well as looking at how making processes and things can be made more collaborative and equal. Miska worked as one of the initiators of the Aalto University Fab Lab and has had his hand in other fab labs and open working spaces.

Kirsi Niinimäki is a textile designer, a teacher and a researcher. She has been working as an industrial textile designer at Finlayson, running her own design entrepreneurship and worked as a Principal Lecture in textile design. She has also influenced in the field of textile art and cultural production. Kirsi Niinimäki’s doctoral dissertation FROM DISPOSABLE TO SUSTAINABLE: The Complex Interplay between Design and Consumption of Textiles and Clothing was completed in 2011. Currently she works as a post doc researcher in Design Research in Aalto University and she also teaches in the Creative Sustainability Master’s Degree Programme.

Artist Blacksmith; Designer (Turku University of Applied Sciences 2009);
 Metal Artisan (Southwest Finland Institute for Art, Crafts and Design 2003)
In Governance of Artist Blacksmith’s Association of Finland 2010-
Exhibitions (selected)
NowHere Finland, Jyväskylä, Finland 2012; Exhibition Project Aalto Executive Education 2011, Helsinki, Finland 2011;
 Næs Smedtreff, Tvedestrand, Norway 2011, 2010; Blowing In The Wind, art festival of Halden, Norway 2010;
 Huomenta afrikka! Villa Karo 10 year anniversary exhibition, Helsinki, Finland 2010; Antracit Blacksmith Conference, Granbergsdal, Sweden 2010, 2009, 2008;
 Rautasulka Blacksmith Festival, Sulkava, Finland 2010;
 Neineperin Metallitaideviikot, Ulvila, Finland 2010;
 Sacred Signs, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine 2010
Projects (selected)
Invisible chair (No-Chair-Design challenge), live performances 2011 – 2012, several locations; Workshop “Forging in Urban Environment”, Helsinki Public School, Finland 2010;
 Oshipala Excavadora BETA forging performance, Sulkava, Finland 2010;
 Craft design and documentary project in Opuwo, Namibia 2008; In collaboration with Eero Yli-Vakkuri, Outi Heiskanen and Boris “The Wacher” in “Ore.e refineries” art project in Grand Popo (Benin), Lome (Togo) and Mynämäki (Finland) 2007
Oshipala Air Hammer Studio, http://www.oshipala.com/
email info (at) oshipala (dot) com

I was born in Helsinki. In my family we have always made things. I was encouraged to make and re-make my own clothes, accessories, bags and toys. Since completing a master’s degree in acting at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki I have worked as a freelance actor and singer, but I have never stopped creating using recycled materials.
It might be only a drop in the ocean, according to many, but I sincerely believe that changing our consumer habits and attitudes and values, we create change. I am curious and I enjoy sharing and teaching what I know. I also try to learn new skills on the way by attending courses and workshops.
I have recently started a Facebook page where I share my work and plan to do workshops in the near future. I dream and believe in reviving the old sewing circles and knitting groups, as it is such fun to do things together. Today, I host one knitting group every second week.
ninitchi (at) gmail (dot) com

Eero Yli-Vakkuri is an artist and craftsperson living in Helsinki. Under the headline “peer-productions,” Yli-Vakkuri has worked as a telemarketer selling performance-art documentation dvds, produced peer-funded artworks, exported copper from Benin, made commercials for local entrepreneurs, and stole money from audience members of his performances.
In 2011 Yli-Vakkuri and Jesse Sipola launched the NO-CHAIR-DESIGN Campaign which has challenged the designers of the world to NOT design new chairs. “Instead of making new chairs we should focus on repairing broken ones”. The campaign is run by Ore.e Refineries which is a small company lobbying for sustainable crafts culture.
eero (at) storijapan (dot) net

Summer Seminar: Sustainable Maker Culture

SUMMER SEMINAR: The Maker Movement: From Prosumer to Growsumer*
Wed 18.7.2012, 12-21, Pavilion Main space
What happens when people start making their own stuff and “growing” their own solutions?
From Hacklabs to Techlabs to Fablabs to Trashlabs to Transitionlabs**…
What is the Maker Movement, and where it is going?
Meet the maker communities and hear their stories. Sit down and join us in a workshop.


12.00-13.00 ‘Growing and Learning’ panel discussion
One emerging aspect of the ‘New DIY’ Movement are the communities developing around sustainable solutions, addressing the gaps between urban and rural, nature and culture, art and science, doing and learning. This often results in new, hybrid forms of knowledge and solutions.
These makers come from urban agriculture and renewable energy communities, organizations that promote learning and sharing through making and doing, and people and organizations that promote open design, open knowledge, design literacy and sustainability literacy.
How can we create and share the knowledge we need to cope with complexity and limited natural resources?
Erich Berger (Finnish Society of Bioart)
Taika Ilola (Tuunaamo)
Mikko Laajola (Pixelversity, Res Agri)
Päivi Raivio (Kääntöpöytä)

13.00-17.00 ‘New DIY’ Workshops and Demos
The Helsinki Maker Movement represents a variety of interests, areas of expertise and cultural domains – from hacking, to urban gardening, to smart textiles, to fashion hacking, to electronics hacking, to making stuff from industrial waste….
Some activities have been around for a while but some are new and strange – representing the new ways we are making sense of our world in the 21st century and taking action not only to understand our environment but to make it better.
The workshops will offer hands-on experiences for all visitors – locals and tourists alike.

13.00-15.00 ‘Making as journey’ workshop: Katharina Moebus (Aalto University). A philosophical exploration of the experience of making. Participants will explore together how making something out of seemingly ‘nothing’ can have great effects on our psyche and human relationships.
14.00-16.00 ‘E-textiles’ workshop: Ramyah Gowrishankar (Aalto University). E-textile worktable combines traditional textiles craft and simple electronics. Join us on our e-craft table to learn how to sew a soft-circuit on textiles, to practice and share your textile craft knowledge and work or to simply try and experiment with different materials. Bring your own craft to share with others or make something new from the materials provided on the table to take with you. No previous experience is necessary.
15.00-17.00 ‘Upcycling Design’ workshop: Isabella Haas, EDEL City. Make your own unique design souvenir from waste material!

18.00-20.00 ‘Making and Fabbing’ panel discussion
Fab labs, hack labs and maker spaces are truly new spaces for post-industrial activities: distributed production as an alternative to mass production. These panelists represent both the proponents and critics of digital manufacturing and personal fabrication – and we’ll attempt to dissect the sustainability and unsustainability aspects behind these practices: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Antti Ahonen (Koelse, Trashlab)
Harri Hämäläinen (Helsinki Hacklab, WÄRK:fest)
Miska Knapek (Fab Labs and Open Design enthusiast, Aalto University)
Kirsi Niinimäki (Aalto University)
Jesse Sipola (Oshipala Air Hammer Studio)
Nina Wiklund (DIY enthusiast, Ninitchi)
Eero Yli-Vakkuri (Ore.e Refineries)

20.00-21.00 Free Chat
Enjoy the end of a Helsinki summer evening with the makers, at the lovely Pavilion.

* thanks to Damien Melotte for the term ‘Growsumer’
** credit to Diana Wildschuft for the term ‘Transition Lab’

See more about all the panelists, workshop facilitators and seminar organizer here.

Kesäseminaari: The Maker Movement: From Prosumer to Growsumer
Tekijäliike: kestävää kehitystä tee-se-itse-hengessä
ke 18.7 klo 12-21, WDC Paviljonki

Mitä tapahtuu, kun ihmiset alkavat tehdä omia juttujaan ja “kasvattaa” omia ratkaisujaan?
Mikä on “Maker Movement”, tekijäliike, ja mihin se on matkalla?
Tule tapaamaan Helsingin tekijäyhteisöt ja kuulemaan niiden tarinoita. Ota osaa myös työpajaan.

12.00-13.00 ‘Kasvattaminen ja oppiminen’ -paneelikeskustelu
Uusia tee-se-itse-yhteisöjä on syntymässä kestävien ratkaisujen ympärille. Ne kurovat umpeen kuiluja, jotka erottavat kaupungin maaseudusta, luonnon kulttuurista, tieteen taiteesta, tekemisen oppimisesta. Miten jakaa tätä tietämystä? Keskustelu on englanniksi.
Erich Berger (Finnish Society of Bioart)
Taika Ilola (Tuunaamo)
Mikko Laajola (Pixelversity, Res Agri)
Päivi Raivio (Kääntöpöytä)

13.00-17.00 ’Tee-se-itse 2.0’ Työpajat
Hacklabit, Techlabit, Fablabit, Trashlabit ja Transitionlabit – Helsingin tekijäliike edustaa monenlaisia kiinnostuksen kohteita, tietämystä ja elämänalueita.
Tule tekemään tuttavuutta tee-se-itse-liikkeeseen omin käsin “tekijä 2.0”-työpajoissa.
13-15 ’Tekeminen matkana’ työpaja (Katharina Moebus, Aalto-yliopisto). Filosofinen tutkimus tekemisen kokemuksesta. Osallistujat havainnoivat, miten se että tehdään jotain yhdessä näennäisesti ei-mistään voi olla psyykkisesti ja sosiaalisesti vaikuttava kokemus. Englanniksi ja suomeksi.
14-16 E-tekstiili-työpaja (Ramyah Gowrishankar, Aalto-yliopisto). E-tekstiili yhdistää perinteisen tekstiilikäsityön ja yksinkertaisen elektroniikan. Tuo oma käsityösi tai käytä työpajan tarjoamia materiaaleja ja opi ompelemaan tekstiileihin pehmeä virtapiiri. Englanniksi.
15-17 Upcycling-design työpaja (Isabella Haas, EDEL City). Tee itse design-lahja ystävällesi – osallistu ja inspiroidu! Englanniksi ja suomeksi.

18.00-20.00 ‘Making and Fabbing’ eli tekeminen ja tuunaaminen -paneelikeskustelu
Fab Labit ja hacklabit, 3D-tulostus ja käsityö – oma tekeminen ja käsittely tarjoaa vaihtoehdon massatuotteille. Panelistimme keskustelevat siitä, mikä on hyvää, huonoa ja rumaa tekijäliikeessä (Maker Movement).
Keskustelu on englanniksi.
Antti Ahonen (Koelse, Trashlab)
Harri Hämäläinen (Helsinki Hacklab, WÄRK:fest)
Miska Knapek (Aalto-yliopisto)
Kirsi Niinimäki (Aalto-yliopisto)
Jesse Sipola (Oshipala Air Hammer Studio)
Nina Wiklund (tee-se-itse tekijä, Ninitchi)
Eero Yli-Vakkuri (Ore.e Refineries)

Sustainable Maker Culture
Kestävä tee-se-itse kulttuuri
Hållbar gör-det-själv-kultur

-a series of events at the World Design Capital Pavilion, May-September 2012
-coordinator Cindy Kohtala, doctoral researcher, Aalto University
cindy [ dot ] kohtala [ at ] aalto [ dot ] fi

More here


“Kestävä tee-se-itse kulttuuri” -seminaari on osa designpääkaupunkivuoden Paviljongin ohjelmaa.
“Sustainable Maker Culture” Summer Seminar is part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 Pavilion programme.
“Hållbar gör-det-själv-kultur” seminarium är del av programmet på designhuvudstadsårets Paviljong.

Summer series 2012

Special Summer Series: Sustainable Maker Culture
Kesäohjelmaa: Tee-Se-Itse -tapahtumat

Helsinki Green Drinks moves to the Pavilion! Tervetuloa! Welcome!

World Design Capital Paviljongissa/Pavilion/Paviljongen, Ullanlinnankatu 2-4

Maker Culture: Do It With Others
Jon Sundell (FIN) tells us about the Made in Kallio collective and the importance of collaborative making. The presentation is in English, discussion in Finnish and English.
Thur 31.5, 18-20, Pavilion Library corner
Tee-Se-Itse kulttuuri: Do It With Others
Jon Sundell (FIN) kertoo Made-in-Kallio -ryhmästä ja yhdessä tekemisen tärkeydestä. Esitys on englanniksi; keskustelu on englanniksi ja suomeksi.
to 31.5 klo 18-20, Paviljongin Lukunurkkaus

Maker Culture: Open Design
Massimo Menichinelli (IT/FIN) tells us about Open Design. What is it? Who does it benefit? The presentation and discussion is in English.
Thur 14.6, 18-20, Pavilion Library corner
Tee-Se-Itse kulttuuri: Avoin muotoilu
Avoin Muotoilu (Open Design) Massimo Menichinellin (IT/FIN) silmin. Mitä Avoin muotoilu on? Kuka siitä hyötyy? Esitys ja keskustelu englanniksi.
to 14.6 klo 18-20, Paviljongin Lukunurkkaus

Maker Culture: Fab Labs
Peter Troxler (NL) presents his view on fab labs and maker spaces. Where are they now? Where are they going? Why are we so fascinated by them? The presentation and discussion is in English.
Fri 6.7, 15-18, Pavilion Main space, “After Work” programme
Tee-Se-Itse kulttuuri: Fab Labs
Peter Troxler (NL) esittelee ajatuksiaan tekemisen tiloista ja työpajoista (fab labs). Mikä on niiden nykyisyys? Minne ne ovat menossa? Mikä niissä vangitsee ja kiehtoo? Esitys ja keskustelu englanniksi.
pe 6.7. klo 15-18, Paviljongin päätila

Maker Culture: Growing Knowledge
Mikko Laajola (FIN) tells us about the Res Agri (Resilient Technologies in Urban Agriculture) peer-learning initiative and other maker activities in Helsinki.
Tues 21.8, 18-20, Pavilion Library corner
Tee-Se-Itse kulttuuri: Kasvava tietoisuus
Mikko Laajola (FIN) kertoo Res Agri –ryhmästa ja kaupunkiviljelystä.
ti 21.8 klo 18-20, Paviljongin Lukunurkkaus

The Future of Sustainable Maker Culture
Tues 4.9, 18-20 Pavilion Library corner
Researcher Kristiina Soini-Salomaa (FIN) presents some alternative images of the future of craft and design. What kind of relevance might skills and culture competences have in the future? How could designers and makers respond to the challenges of sustainable development?

Kestävän taitokulttuurin tulevaisuus
ti 4.9 klo 18-20, Paviljongin Lukunurkkaus
Tutkija Kristiina Soini-Salomaa (FIN) esittelee muotoilun ja käsi- ja taideteollisuuden vaihtoehtoisia ammatillisia tulevaisuudenkuvia. Mikä merkitys taito- ja kulttuuriosaamisella voi olla tulevaisuudessa? Miten muotoiljat ja käsityöläiset vastaavat kestävän kehityksen haasteisiin?



SUMMER SEMINAR: The Maker Movement: From Prosumer to Growsumer*
Wed 18.7, 11-21, Pavilion Main space
What happens when people start making their own stuff and “growing” their own solutions?
From Hacklabs to Techlabs to Fablabs to Trashlabs to Transitionlabs**…
What is the Maker Movement, and where it is going?
Meet the maker communities and hear their stories. Sit down and join us in a workshop.
Programme here.

Kesäseminaari: The Maker Movement: From Prosumer to Growsumer
ke 18.7 klo 11-21, Paviljongin päätila
keskustelut ja työpajat
ohjelma englanniksi täällä

For more information: / Kysymyksiä? cindy dot kohtala at aalto dot fi

*thanks to Damien Melotte for the term ‘Growsumer’
**credit to Diana Wildschuft for the term ‘Transition Lab’

“Kestävä tee-se-itse kulttuuri” -tapahtumat on osa designpääkaupunkivuoden Paviljongin ohjelmaa.
“Sustainable Maker Culture” Summer Series is part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 Pavilion programme.
“Hållbar gör-det-själv-kultur” händelser är del av programmet på designhuvudstadsårets Paviljong.