Joris van Tubergen is not an artist. Though he may be responsible for some of the most groundbreaking, 3D-printed installations ever made, Van Tubergen is first and foremost a product designer and a pioneer in the field of affordable 3D printing. In keeping with the ethos of the Maker Movement, the designer considers the 3D printer as a tool for digital fabrication and experiments with cost-effective techniques to push the envelope of product design.
Van Tubergen first encountered digital fabrication while pursuing his degree in Product Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). After completing his graduation project at Océ Technologies in 2005, he worked for the company as a freelance product designer before joining the ProtoSpace fabrication lab as a Senior Lab Manager and Creative Director. There, Van Tubergen helped launch a Master Class on how to build an open-source, do-it-yourself 3D printer (the Replication Rapid-Prototyper Project or RepRap), which resulted in the birth of the first Ultimaker machine. Since then, the designer has been hacking the Ultimaker to design critically acclaimed products including a life-size elephant, chocolate sculptures and a full-scale mannequin of Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin.
A hands-on approach
When it comes to product design, Van Tubergen insists that time is of the essence. “Make things as fast as possible,” he says. “If you can create something within an hour, you know it will be better within a day.” Furthermore, the designer considers this “learning-by-doing” approach as an intrinsic part of design research.
“In general, research for me is making things,” Van Tubergen explains. “I really like the hands-on aspect of doing research. And I am amazed by how many experts there are in the world who are not trained to be experts. I think that we as researchers at an academic level can learn a lot from these fanatics who can create the craziest things in their homes or in their backyards [...] We need to bridge the gap between academic research and ‘maker’ research.”
With this in mind, Van Tubergen returns to TU Delft as a Design United Visiting Professor where he plans to design a large-scale, 3D-print installation to be displayed at Dutch Design Week 2017. Reprising his work on the Tom Dumoulin mannequin, which was made in collaboration with the university, the designer revisits the theme of the human body to explore different approaches to fabrication. Through this project, Van Tubergen aims to serve as a conduit between the 3D printing space and the academic world and will also be giving lectures on advanced prototyping.
Back to the future
Despite the rise of digital fabrication, Van Tubergen predicts that 3D printers will not be as ubiquitous. “I don’t think that everybody will have a 3D printer in their house,” he says, “but I do think that you will have some sort of digital production facility around the corner and that maybe we go back to the Middle Ages where you can create everything within your city.”
Nevertheless, Van Tubergen maintains that designers must learn to master the technology in order to design for it. “With 3D printing, it’s like everything is possible. Yes, everything is possible, but you have to design for the technique and know its limitations.”
Personal profile of Joris van Tubergen
Visiting professor 2017
product designer and a pioneer in the field of affordable 3D printing