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The MIMIC Wall: Rethinking the Workplace

From standing desks to open plans, the modern workplace has become a leading site for design innovation, swapping the generic office structure of past decades for more flexible and friendly alternatives. At the forefront of future-facing office design is the MG2's recent release, the MIMIC Wall digital prototype.

Conceptualized in collaboration with Eastman Innovation Lab, the flexible system is made of hexagonal tiles that can open, close and change their appearance depending on the needs of the user and environment. "The workplace of the future is not an environment that you have to work around, but, very simply, an environment that works around you," notes Zac Feltoon, one of the industrial designer's on the transdisciplinary design team.

The portable, modular system can satisfy a host of daily scenarios: from pop-up meetings to presentations or even just provide a slight enclosure for a quiet moment amidst a hectic schedule. The tiles use Saflex, a material that can be laminated between glass to provide acoustic insulation.

The MIMIC Wall can be employed as a full wall or a partial barrier in an open space. As a wall, it can function as a large video screen, making it easier than ever to connect with team members who are spread around the world.

The wall uses the Vanceva color system, allowing for 3,000 color combinations which allow users to personalize their space while maintaining a high level of luminosity. "Our future vision for the MIMIC Wall is to make it completely interactive," states the design team.

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Best of Both Worlds: A Digital Fabrication Machine That Allows You to Combine CNC with Hand Work

Imagine that you've got a piece of material you'd like to put a rounded edge on, but you're not sure of the exact radius. You can stick it into a CNC machine and program the toolpath, or run it across a router table; both of these take time to set up, and might require several bit changes before you get a radius you deem pleasing. But in a fraction of the time, you could easily "break the edge"* with a block plane, eyeballing it between strokes to get the desired result.

That idea—that machines are better and quicker at some tasks, while human hands and eyes are better for others—has driven researchers at the UK's Lancaster University to create a machine they call ReForm.

ReForm's first trick is that it's both additive and subtractive: The material it works is clay, and there's a milling head to carve it away as well as an extrusion nozzle to lay it down. Operating off of your 3D file, ReForm spits and carves until your object is formed.

The second trick is that the operator can then pull the object out, make adjustments to it by hand—squeezing, shaping and trimming it manually—then throw it back into the machine. At that point a 3D scanner records the changes, and software then updates your 3D file to match!

The third trick is that it allows you to step back in time, essentially giving you "Command-Z" in real life. For example, let's say you pull your object out of the machine, remove some material to make it thinner, but decide you've gone too far and ruined the design. You simply throw it back into the machine, instruct it to back up a few steps, and it re-forms your part exactly the way you had it before. Try doing that with a subtractive machine.

ReForm's back-and-forth approach can not only save the user a lot of programming/computer modeling time, but also inject that human touch into the shaping of an object that's all-too-absent these days. As the researchers put it, "It enables the design process to be continuous and evolutionary…. The process runs in a closed loop with the user and machine taking turns, enabling rapid adjustments to be made."

Dr Jason Alexander, a lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction and project lead, said: "Before you had to be an expert in computer aided design. ReForm means you no longer have to be a technical expert to design objects for 3D printing. People can get hands-on and iteratively and inexpensively design objects in a much more efficient way.
"We will find that people will be able to create artefacts for 3D printing that are a lot more creative and fit for purpose."

Here's what the machine looks like in action:


*For you non-designers, "breaking the edge" is fabricator lingo for removing the sharp corner where two surfaces meet (think of the front edge of your kitchen counter). The word "break" is used as in "a breaking wave," not as in smashing something.

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How to Make Sneakers Out of Trash: Designing the Adidas x Parley Ocean Shoe

Plenty of people tout innovative uses for recycled plastic, from vertical gardens made out of discarded plastic bottles to this unnecessarily robust coin purse. But, at the end of the day, many of these designs fall short because they're not creating a product that is desirable when divorced from the fact that they are, in fact, byproducts of waste.

The adidas x Parley is an exception to that paradigm—a shoe from recycled plastic that you actually want to wear, not just because you're saving the earth, but because it looks good, too. As you might surmise from the name, adidas x Parley is the product of a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, an initiative that invites creators to raise awareness and protect ocean life through various projects. To bring this project to life, adidas also reached out to long-time collaborator Alexander Taylor, a London-based industrial designer.

The environmentally-friendly sneakers use two kinds of recycled plastic: PET, which you probably know since water bottle manufacturing has made it nearly ubiquitous, and nylon 6 gill-net, a material salvaged off the coast of Africa from illegal fishermen. "It is just part of the 72 [kilometers] of net which was pulled in by hand and brought back to port in La Rochelle prior to sending a small amount to us," Taylor says. "The white part of the shoe is recycled PET, which was produced using PET rubbish collected during a clean up operation in the Maldives in November last year."

Taking after adidas' already iconic running shoe silhouette, the adidas x Parley features a thin sole and sleek form, but diverges with its stylized exterior— concentric layers of teal nylon woven around the upper of the sneaker with a white, bubbly-textured PET sole. "This was a very special project in many ways—one of which being that we were able to create a design that could stand outside the more familiar and recognizable [adidas] lines . . . something which I was very conscious of was that [the shoes] should also be in some way intuitive to the cause," explains Taylor. "The 'wave' graphic came naturally, following the shell pattern of the shoe, and we worked and developed that design and graphic for the original shoes." The upper alone repurposes 16.5 plastic bottles and 13 grams of nylon.

Due to an unusually strict timeline (Taylor only had a few weeks to design and produce the kicks in order to officially unveil them at the United Nations earlier this year), the designer was forced to work quickly, using electrical wire to swiftly execute his first functional prototypes until the final material was ready. "It was really only a matter of [6] days to create the first couple of pairs which were presented at the UN," Taylor says.

That initial prototype with the final materials, while successful in proving the concept, turned out to be too stiff for actual wear. After the launch, Taylor and his team went back to the drawing board, experimenting with new ways of manufacturing and integrating the plastic.

"Every time we received a new material or slightly different weight, quality— something happened which was unexpected and then, of course, you have to re-think," Taylor says. "Even to retain the graphic with a different scale of green gill-net was a challenge." As with any adidas shoe, performance played an integral role, so each prototype had to be tested across hundreds of miles for endurance, as well as pass strenuous flex tests to ensure durability.

Re-engineered gill net bobbins: The white bobbins are PET, reprocessed using plastic collected during a clean-up operation in the Maldives and the green bobbins are nylon form illegal fishing deep sea gill nets, salvaged off the coast of West Africa.

After a year of engineering and rejiggering, the team arrived at a process that worked well, one which required grinding the nylon plastic to a powder and then extruding it. "This process required a huge amount of work by Kelli George in the Portland material development team," Taylor says. "The gill-net is nylon 6, perhaps one of the worst types of plastic to work with, so the first focus was to make this [material] soft enough for comfort and to work mechanically on the shoe. [It took] many rounds of processing, but the material now on the bobbins is such a high quality even when compared to virgin materials. It's amazing."

Turns out, salvaging used fishing nets from the ocean poses its own unique set of challenges. "I remember with the first shoe, I had a conversation with John Warner (green chemist, and friend to Parley) and he was telling me how he had to first try and get rid of the smell of rotting fish, as well as all the lead and foreign articles caught in the net," Taylor says. "Subsequently, the cleaning aspect of the material is still relatively 'low tech' however, this is just one of the process's challenges which still needs to be developed."

For the final construction of the shoe, adidas uses an embroidery technology commonly found in the automotive and aerospace sectors. Recycled plastic is towed off the bobbin and laid onto the machine bed, where it is then stitched over itself to build up multiple layers. "The advantage of this technology from a performance context is the idea that the network of material can be engineered in a way that responds to biomechanics and the athlete's or consumer's requirements for support and flexibility variation," Taylor says. "In addition to building the layers, we are also able to control the direction of the fibers and filaments to create the best possible structures. With regards to efficiency of material, we only need to lay down the specific material required, resulting in practically zero waste."

Despite overcoming a slew of challenges to bring adidas x Parley to production, the shoes won't be going to mass production anytime soon, partially due to the significant amount of hand-labor required for each pair. "There were many challenges and there still are many elements we are working on in order to refine further and continue developing to ensure we have the best possible product," Taylor says.

Those interested in the upcycled kicks will have to move fast. Adidas is only giving away 50 pairs of the limited edition shoes to individuals lucky—and creative— enough to enter their Instagram contest. Announced earlier this month in time for World Oceans Day, the contest invites sneaker-heads and micro-filmmakers alike to create an Instagram video sharing how they'll reduce single-use plastic from their lives. The contest runs until July 31 (complete rules can be found on adidas' social media accounts).

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Infento Self-Built Vehicles Empower Children to Be "Makers Instead of Consumers"

Photographer Spencer Rutting was volunteering for a youth organization when he had an activity idea: To organize a race where the kids would build their own self-powered vehicles. It was a success, as "The kids loved building real stuff and they were really creative with the material that was available." (Example below.)

Rutting wondered if he could take the concept further, and brought it up with his brother-in-law Sander Letema. He couldn't have picked a better person to bounce the idea off of: Letema was an engineer who worked for a tool manufacturing company, and the idea struck a particular chord with him. That's because Letema was raised in a house without a TV, and when he asked his father why, the answer was "You shouldn't look at people who are doing things, but do fun stuff yourself."

Rutting and Letema then launched Infento, which produces modular kit vehicles for kids:

"All parts that were developed first had to comply with two crucial criteria," the duo writes. "They needed to be super safe and they needed to be extremely durable. We only took the next step in development when they fulfilled these two demands."

Every part can always be reused for another ride or structure. Year after year Infento material can be transformed into new shapes. Wouldn't it be great if you could hand over your Kit to your grandson or granddaughter eventually? Well that's exactly the goal we set for ourselves in terms of quality.
Below you can see an example of our thinking in terms of safety. In this picture you see we chose a tooth belt instead of a chain. Why? Well, a tooth belt is much safer for children than a chain.

The overall idea behind Infento is alluring as it not only invests children in their possessions by empowering them to build them, but also provides pretty good bang for the buck: A $300 kit contains options for six different vehicles, a $500 kit yields nine vehicles, and the top-of-the-line $600 kit yields eleven.

To get things going they launched a Kickstarter campaign, and the response was overwhelming. At press time they'd garnered $282,659 on a $50,000 goal, and there are still ten days left to pledge.

Ultimately we hope the company will expand into other youth-based products based around their very attractive philosophy: "[Infento] empowers your family," writes the company, "to be makers instead of consumers."

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We believe that a truly good product is inherently beautiful and useful. This kind of beauty does not happen by accident though! At Formost we do not only find good products for you but we test them and tell the stories of the people behind these products. This way you experience a story while receiving something which shall last for generations and accumulate some nice stories itself.

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