Low-Tech Factory

ECAL students explore self-sustaining manufacturing process for Designers' Saturdays in Langenthal

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For its 14th edition earlier this month, Designers’ Saturdays in Langenthal, Switzerland invited ECAL undergraduate and Masters students in industrial and product design to let their imagination run free while developing a series of machines exploring the manufacturing process of a selected product. The project was overseen by industrial designers Chris Kabel and Tomas Kral. Students had the opportunity to experiment with techniques such as moulding, thermoforming and knitting while fabricating mirrors, hats, bags, toys, lamps and even popcorn.

The popcorn machine—titled “Oncle Sam“—attracted our attention for its capacity to produce one piece of popcorn at a time. In the elaborate process butter and salt are mechanically added to a single grain of corn placed above a little flame, giving the consumer the full experience of watching and savoring the popcorn as it’s produced. Emphasizing the effect of time, the project serves to enhance the experience of consumption.

The Rocking Knit hat factory is also intriguing for its ability to combine a leisure time activity with manufacturing. The energy developed by the movement of a rocking chair activates a system of cogwheel that allows a small knitting factory to produce a little hat while the user relaxes back and forth. Again, notions of time and self-production are at the center of the project.

The overall initiative was inspired both by the industrial fabric of Langenthal and the general designers’ need for autonomy where they can be a consumer and producer at once while overseeing the overall manufacturing process.

For a closer look at ECAL’s student work see the slideshow.