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Solar Machine Spins Sunlight-Shaped Furniture

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the just-because-you-can-do-something dept.

Earth 71

Mike writes "Austrian designers mischer'traxler have created a solar powered machine that makes an incredible array of furnishings that vary based on how much sunlight it receives over the course of a day. Titled 'The Idea of a Tree,' the machine spins spools of thread into stools, benches, containers, and lamp shades that wax and wane as the available sunlight shifts. Furniture created during cloudy winter days will be wrapped more slowly, causing it to be darker in color, thicker, and smaller than pieces created during the sun-soaked summer months."

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Smaller and darker furniture with cloudy weather? (1)

101010_or_0x2A (1001372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299669)

Theres goes its practicality in Vancouver....

And - the punch line is? (2, Informative)

us7892 (655683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299749)

So what.

Re:And - the punch line is? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299963)

The point is that the QA people will be hopping mad.

Re:And - the punch line is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28302125)

no, sows watts.

Very interesting (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299759)

and useless use of the solar energy.

But maybe I'm too dumb to appreciate it.

Re:Very interesting (2, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300279)

Its machine art. Not practical, but conceptual. Nature's creations are highly dependent on the surrounding climate. Our human creations tend to be the same regardless of the weather ( with a few exceptions we take great care in creating an ideal environment for anything whose quality would depend upon the surrounding climate). So this is a mixture between the two. Something human made that depends upon the environment on purpose.

I'm not buying the furniture, but its interesting. If I were ever to find myself in some alternate reality where we lacked our giant automated factories, but still had small machines. This would be pretty useful. We could adapt it to make clothing that was appropriate for the current weather. Then we could trade the clothing for muskets, whiskey and dvds.

Re:Very interesting (2, Informative)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300305)

I would not make a machine like this, nor do i think it is a economic based thing. It is art, pure and simple. I thought it was neat, and pretty interesting, but it does not compare to a good painting or killer song. YMMV.

Re:Very interesting (1)

AndyG314 (760442) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300343)

I don't think the point was to create something directly usuefull. The point is to produce a machine that makes things with solar power to learn about solar powered machines. Often many usless machine's are made before one makes a usueful one. I beleive they are called prototypes.

Re:Very interesting (1)

2names (531755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300501)

Often many usless machine's are made before one makes a usueful one.

In my family, I called them "older sisters."

Re:Very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28303363)

In software we call it Windows... still waiting on the useful one.

Actually - no... that was not the point... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300775)

From TFA:

In developing "The Idea of a Tree", Mischer'traxler were drawn towards both automated machines and the concept that "a tree is a product of its specific time and place.
It reacts and develops according to its surrounding and constantly records various environmental impacts in its growth process.
Each single tree tells its own story of development."
In their "Idea of a Tree" project they create a product that is a immediately linked to the environment in which it is produced, and fittingly each product bears a stamp notating the date and place where it was created.

The point of the project was to try to emulate a tree and the way it produces fruit.
Which is inherently not a very productive process. That is why trees employ redundancy. A lot of it.

Basically, they have developed a very complicated replacement for a "Made in" stamp.

Re:Very interesting (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300859)

But I don't think that this was meant as a prototype for anything. It was meant as an art piece, not as a practical design.

some fugly furniture (2, Interesting)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299845)

interesting use of solar energy, but these are some ugly looking furniture

Re:some fugly furniture (3, Informative)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300209)

I know, at first it looked like a curious idea...After looking at the pictures [inhabitat.com] , I thought WTF? That's not furniture, that's like grass wrapped around a log.

Re:some fugly furniture (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300281)

And looks incredibly uncomfortable. No thanks.

what kind of thread and resin is used in this? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28299865)

looks like an interesting DIY project, anyone know the specifics of the thread and resin used to do something like this?

Re:what kind of thread and resin is used in this? (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300639)

Here's [inhabitat.com] a much more interesting and useful DIY project.

It is a polymer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28300979)

...composed of plutonium and dioxin.

Re:what kind of thread and resin is used in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28316163)

According to a "museum catalog" -type web page that is linked-to by the cited page it is built from "viscose" thread (which is probably rayon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscose_rayon [wikipedia.org] ) and epoxy resin. IANAPC (polymer chemist). but I agree with you, this looks like it has DIY fabber http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabber [wikipedia.org] possibilities

Where's the gimmick tag? (2, Insightful)

TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299875)

So they hooked a machine to a solar power source whose varied power output results in slightly different products... I guess the little kids in africa and china making overpriced furnishings with imperfections, err, personality... can now be replaced.

No money in it. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299879)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

Re:No money in it. (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299955)

Philistine. There's more to life than $$$$.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300059)

Money may not buy love, but it can sure get you laid by some pretty hot babes! ;-)

Seriously, this is more a piece of performance art than a manufacturing device. The ecology would better be served by plugging those solar panels into the grid. Use regular AC power to manufacture the furniture, and just use a photocell to vary the spin rate in proportion to incident sunlight. Oh, and I've never even been to Philistia!

Re:No money in it. (4, Interesting)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300339)

Seriously, this is more a piece of performance art than a manufacturing device.

And...?

Day 1, lesson 1 at critic's school. You cannot criticise something, be it a movie, book, song, painting, or a solar powered machine, for failing to do something it does not set out to do.

Was there anything in TFA that suggested that this thing was setting out to be an automated cash cow for mass producing furniture? I didn't see it.

Re:No money in it. (1, Insightful)

lennier (44736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301521)

"You cannot criticise something, be it a movie, book, song, painting, or a solar powered machine, for failing to do something it does not set out to do."

Sure you can. You can criticise it for trying to do something stupid that should never have been attempted in the first place.

"Your atomic bomb blew up and killed everyone. Er, that's not so great actually"
"Hey! You can't criticise my work of SCIENCE!"

"Your installation artwork is pointless and takes up space."
"Hey! You can't criticise my work of ART!"

Re:No money in it. (3, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302155)

Sure you can.

Can what? Criticise it for failing to do something it does not set out to do? I disagree.

You can criticise it for trying to do something stupid that should never have been attempted in the first place.

That's a different thing from criticising it for failing to do something it does not set out to do.

"Your atom bomb killed everyone!" Valid criticism.

"Your atom bomb does not take me to work in style while returning 30MPG!" Invalid criticism.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307857)

I've seen grammar-nazis.. I've seen internet-nazis.. I've even seen nazi-nazis.. but criticism-nazis? that's a new one.

Re:No money in it. (0, Flamebait)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#28303079)

You really are a big sack of stupid.

Re:No money in it. (2, Insightful)

Wee_Bit_Hazed (879644) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299981)

They will probably sell each piece for $500.

Re:No money in it. (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299987)

Have you seen the price of designer furniture. If he can get $500 a pop, it wont take long to break even.

Designer furniture? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300243)

I've seen pieces at big lots running higher than $500.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28305683)

I try to avoid stereotyping when reading slashdot, but it looks like most of the posters on this article have never seen the inside of an art museum (or even a furniture store that doesn't feature arrows on the floor to show customers which way to walk.) How much did it cost Jeff Koons [balloonhq.com] to build a giant balloon dog out of steel so it looked like actual balloons? And that can't even be used as practical furniture. Any revenue from selling individual pieces should be incidental; if they market it right, the machine itself will tour art exhibits. Things that move, but don't need to be plugged into the wall? Gold. What about furniture with a design that reflects the ambient light inside a Guggenheim museum? It's not Jean Tinguely, but I think Mr. Chino will find somewhere to exhibit.

Re:No money in it. (4, Insightful)

TheLostSamurai (1051736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300149)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

And of course anything that doesn't bring a profit isn't worth doing.

This machine doesn't make furniture, it churns out 1 piece of sunlight created functional art a day, which could easily sell for way more than the price of the machine. I'm not saying I would pay for it, but value is in the eye of the beholder.

Re:No money in it. (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301289)

I'd buy one. Because it has geek factor.

Re:No money in it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28302189)

done right, it could be a geek wrapper.

Re:No money in it. (0)

Erchie (103202) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302865)

Yeah, and the sun was in his eyes, blinding him so he couldn't see how much money he was counting out.

Re:No money in it. (3, Interesting)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 5 years ago | (#28304031)

Anything relying on commercial success for its continued existence needs to make a profit, yes.

This is a step forward in furniture in the sense that we one day want to have machines making everything for us from freely available energy and materials--all the way down to bio-engineering plants which can grow into customized shapes. Can you imagine a plant which grows the shape of a couch frame out of, say, oak? Bamboo and seaweed have super-fast growing genes. Why not create a way to grow the frame of a house rather than cut and shape it. Let nature do the work.

Re:No money in it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28308897)

I completely agree. I've often thought of a living house frame that is grown in a controlled way that 1) The root system IS the foundation (I just spent 10K to fix my concrete foundation). 2) The living root system under the house helps improve drainage and offers a natural waste-water processing (of course we'd need to stop using harmful chemical/cleaners if we don't want to kill the root system). and 3) The leaves would provide natural cooling in the summer, and solar heating in the winter.

As an engineer who knows a little about botany, I don't see why this would not be possible. And if done properly, it should result in a superior structure.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 5 years ago | (#28316449)

I sometimes chuckle reading the latest news about solar cells. At some point we'll come to realize that the greatest, most efficient solar cells have been staring us in the face all along: leaves.

The true tech revolution will be not hardware, but wetware. When we reverse engineer the structures of the world's genomes and find ourselves in possession of millions of genetic tools for accomplishing goals.

I expect the first revolution in this area will be the replacement of fossil fuels with biodiesel grown from genetically engineered algae. This tech is already well into production on several fronts, but has to increase the fuel / input ratio to achieve an efficiency high enough to beat 'free oil sitting in the ground'. But there's a number of strats to pursue in that, including pumping them with CO2 in the form of sewage and coal-plant exhaust.

Who knows, someday you might be feeding kibble to your pet car to keep it alive >_> We could give it an emulated horse's brain (they love to run / travel) and some modified behavioral brain structures and integrate it with GPS positional tracking and data sharing. The secondary bonus of that is that fender-benders can simply grow back into shape, and nicks and scratches heal like our own skin. Add in some octopus skin-genes and you can change color \ pattern everyday!

Re:No money in it. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300239)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

Where does this perverse notion come from that all of human endeavour must be about making a profit?

Re:No money in it. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300357)

Where does this perverse notion come from that all of human endeavour must be about making a profit?

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations [online-literature.com] , 1776.

What?!? You mean that was a rhetorical question?

Re:No money in it. (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300621)

Actually in economics, we measure items by "utility", not pure currency. So if art brings joy to someone, it makes sense within the economic framework to produce it, as long as the joy it brought is greater than the work it cost to produce.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301455)

it makes sense within the economic framework to produce it, as long as the joy it brought is greater than the work it cost to produce.

How interesting that you consider work to be the inverse of joy.

Re:No money in it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28302651)

yeah, i was about to say - the creator of the piece could find joy in its making.

Re:No money in it. (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302747)

If you don't want me to make a profit, I'll have to charge you extra.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300449)

Where does this perverse notion come from that all of human endeavour must be about making a profit?

What exactly is perverse about producing more than you consume? That's what a profit is, after all.

Re:No money in it. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302101)

Where does this perverse notion come from that all of human endeavour must be about making a profit?

What exactly is perverse about producing more than you consume? That's what a profit is, after all.

Who said anything about profit being perverse? I said that it was perverse to suggest that EVERYTHING we do has to be profitable.

Re:No money in it. (1)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301887)

Evidently you've never looked at the price of designer furniture. One.

Re:No money in it. (1)

db10 (740174) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300427)

I crank out about one piece a day, of about the same quality it seems. At least I have the decency to flush mine.

Re:No money in it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28300871)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

What if you have more than one machine? After you build each one the cost is the yarn only i'm guessing.

Re:No money in it. (2, Funny)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300939)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

Well, if the pieces sell for fifty dollars each, you've recouped the cost of $500 worth of solar panels in ten days.

Uh, is this a trick question?

Re:No money in it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306191)

You're modded funny but you should be modded insightful as the GP is an idiot for asking a stupid question.

Re:No money in it. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302757)

The machine cranks out 1 piece per day, a maximum of 365 pieces per year. At that rate, how many years does it take to recoup the cost of the machine, with at least $500 worth of solar panels?

Dude, they're showing it at an international design show. You know, a bunch of other artists and designers who will think this is cool. I personally thought the lampshades looked really cool -- I'm willing to bet that where these are very unique art pieces, it will be something they can sell for quite a bit if they're willing to part with it.

Heck, looking at the machine, it's likely not that expensive to make one. It's a frigging metal frame with one big solar panel, some pulleys, and the spindle the resin gets wrapped around.

Has everyone on Slashdot lost the ability to appreciate art and technology which doesn't have an immediately practical/profitable use? Because every time a story gets posted like this, a whole slew of people start saying how utterly pointless it was to have done it in the first place.

Have you all spent so long in front of a computer that you've lost sight of the concept of art?

Cheers

OR... (2, Insightful)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299921)

you could plug it into an outlet and make more consistent furniture and make it all the time.

Re:OR... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28300491)

Yea why paint when you can print a single colored sheet of paper?

Re:OR... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302855)

you could plug it into an outlet and make more consistent furniture and make it all the time.

Assuming of course you wanted perfectly uniform and consistent furniture all of the time.

Given that the entire point was to create something which varied in a more organic manner, they obviously didn't want to do what you suggest.

They didn't create the machine to come up with a new way of creating furniture, they did it to make one-of-a-kind pieces.

Cheers

Re:OR... (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28311911)

You are erroneously suggesting that the power grid maintains a constant condition.

OMFG (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28299991)

It's the iPhone killer we've all been waiting for!

...for which we've been waiting. Sorry, everyone. Sorry! I got a little carried away there.

Re:OMFG (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28300049)

You are a giant douchebag

Re:OMFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28302429)

Your Ma told me how annoying you were while I was banging her (in the ass, only moron would find themselves in a position to transmit her genes). She especially complained about your dick (not Cheney, that is).

MakerBot--? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300043)

Seems like I could rig a MakerBot to run on solar or other renewable energy. So I must ask the question, why not buy 1 MakerBot kit and use it to make a FunitureMakerBot?

You could power it with solar, mechanical, hydro, etc etc etc... Just a thought.

Spools to stools (5, Funny)

AaronParsons (1172445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28300653)

the machine spins spools ... into stools

My dog does this... he tears apart yarn, eats it, and eventually it comes out the other end.

Misleading Title (1)

axlash (960838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301107)

Saying 'sunlight-shaped' led me to think that the variation in sunlight caused the machine to vary the 3-dimensional form of the furniture. But the machine does nothing of the kind.

Re:Misleading Title (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#28303119)

Actually, it appears it does alter the 3D form. Look at the pictures - there are variations in the thickness caused by the intensity of the sunlight. And it even says so in the summary: "...causing it to be darker in color, thicker, and smaller than pieces created during the sun-soaked summer months".

Redmond-Bound (1)

Wowlapalooza (1339989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28301641)

I'm imagining a whole life-cycle loop, with a farm of these things churning out chairs, and Ballmer at the other end of the life-cycle wrecking them. They just need a way to recycle the broken pieces back into chairs again.

Re:Redmond-Bound (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28302355)

They just need a way to recycle the broken pieces back into chairs again.

      That's the beauty of the Open Source Community. Oh you LOVE us when you actually NEED us, and steal our ideas/sue us when it suits you...

Huh? (1)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28303345)

I guess I'm just not cool enough to get the point of this exercise.

You're all hitting a dead tree (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28305095)

Well I like the concept! It's not meant to be pretty, an alternative form of cheap labor, or cure cancer. "[The idea of the] project was to bring the recording qualities of a tree and its dependence on natural cycles into products. Therefore machines were developed which are recording and producing at the same time." It helps reading before you spool drivel ;D

Vintage furniture (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28308855)

Noone will ever see my comment, but here goes.

Actually, this is genius.

This puts furniture in a whole new realm.

If it wasn't so craptastic looking it could catch on like wine.
People pay huge amounts of money for specific vintage wines because
the rain, sun and soil nutrients were a specific amount to create a
certain taste.

Well it's possible people would by a chair, because it fits their ass perfectly
due to the random timing of sun and clouds.

There'll be chair snobs! Drink your Château La Conseillante 1865 on your 2012 chair.

Re:Vintage furniture (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28311959)

I saw your comment.

And not just 2012; but July 17th 2012, when it was mildly overcast from 11a to 12:12p, which creates just the right low spot just there.

Ahh....

Lazy engineers are easy to spot. (1)

BenFenner (981342) | more than 5 years ago | (#28308887)

Dev 1: How the hell do we make these glass tubes uniform in color, density and size with varying solar power input to our device?
Dev 2: I dunno, that's a tough problem, we should give it a week and see if we can figure it out.

one week later

Dev 1: You got anything?
Dev 2: Not a thing.
Dev 1: Me neither. Fuck it. Let's call it art and be done with it.
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