Gareth Neal and The New Raw develop novel crafts-based 3D printing technique

Using thrice-recycled plastic, printed in loops rather than layers, to create the 'Digitally Woven' series of objects

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According to an article on Dezeen, British designer Gareth Neal and Dutch studio The New Raw have used thrice-recycled plastic and a new 3D printing method to create the objects in the Digitally Woven series, which are printed in loops rather than layers. Neal is known for making furniture that references or incorporates heritage crafts and usually works in wood, while The New Raw specializes in robotic manufacturing with plastic waste.

Gareth Neal and The New Raw use thrice-recycled plastic and a novel 3D printing technique to create the 'Digitally Woven' series of objects.
Photo credit: James Champion.

The designer and the studio displayed several of their creations – a pink chair called Loopy and three vessels with a look reminiscent of woven baskets – at the Material Matters fair during the London Design Festival. The collaborators paired up to explore how traditional craft techniques such as willow work, knitting, crocheting, and paper-cord weaving could inform a new style of 3D printing, and hoped to develop a method that would allow for imperfections in the final product and therefore reduce the amount of waste due to misprints.

Gareth Neal and The New Raw use thrice-recycled plastic and a novel 3D printing technique to create the 'Digitally Woven' series of objects.
Photo credit: James Champion.

For Digitally Woven, Neal and The New Raw created objects using various patterns of interlocking loops, which gave the strength of the structure and enabled the makers to use 3x recycled plastic, a rarely used material.

Currently, when working with recycled polypropylene plastic filament in 3D printing, the mix of source materials in the waste stream and the number of times it has been recycled are factors that can make it more unstable. However, the technique is visibly different from typical 3D printing, where the filament is added in layers to build an object. Here, the printing robot has extruded thicker cords of material, almost like icing from a piping bag, and has laid it down in a looped pattern.

According to Neal, the print lines for the machine are based on ones drawn by hand, creating a nuanced look informed by natural movement and crafting tools. “At the time of starting the project, The New Raw was printing in a very traditional style with layered prints that had come from putting 3D models through slicer tools,” he told Dezeen. “They asked me to look into how we could consider using their technology to capture craft techniques that they had started to explore to disguise the misprints.”

Gareth Neal and The New Raw use thrice-recycled plastic and a novel 3D printing technique to create the 'Digitally Woven' series of objects.
Photo credit: James Champion.

Their experimentation yielded a “massive amount” of samples and textures. “The open weave structures were a totally new breakthrough and are really quite special in that they create structurally strong, lightweight objects using half the normal material use,” said Neal.

The designer said the project, which had been funded by a European Union grant, had involved a steep learning curve for him, as he had rarely used additive manufacturing and never worked with plastic. “I learned so much. It has also reinforced how important the close relationship is between artists and manufacturers. If a manufacturer is open to experimentation, a designer or a maker really can introduce new approaches to traditional methods.”

Gareth Neal is now working to expand and refine the range of Digitally Woven products. The Loopy chair can be made to order in any color, using plastic from any waste stream.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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