Unfold creates physical tools for digital measuring

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Analogue wood and brass tools transformed into digital measuring devices

Dutch Design Week 2014: designers Unfold, Kirschner3D and Penny Webb have developed a set of instruments that measure physical objects and transfer the dimensions to a digital model in real time on screen (+ movie).

Digital Calliper by Unfold

Belgian studio Unfold, British interaction designer Penny Webb and Dutch design and research lab Kirschner3D worked together on the Of Instruments and Archetypes project, which is launching at an exhibition during Dutch Design Week.

The team has created a calliper, a tape measure and a protractor that translate the real measurements they take of an existing material or object to a digital file.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

"These instruments can then be used in an application where archetypical, parametric objects can be customised with exact measurements and materialised by digital production techniques such as 3D printing," said Unfold.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

Starting with a simple base design, the measurements taken adjust the parameters of the digital file to make different dimensions longer, shorter, wider or thinner.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

The three instruments are made from wood and brass, designed to look like their traditional forms and to be as simple as possible.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

None feature any digits or increment markers because the user has no need to take note of the distances themselves.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

"Through this project, measuring becomes something without numbers, but with accurate precision; where measuring becomes making," Unfold said.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

To demonstrate the project, the designers have created a series of 3D-printed pieces that fit over different-sized glass vessels. The printed objects are customised with the technology to fit precisely onto the tops of the glasses and to incorporate a found item that acts as a handle.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

The calliper is used to measure the width of the vessel's top, the length of its neck, the distance the handle needs to be from the glass and any other required parameters.

Digital Calliper by Unfold

Each time a measurement is taken, the preloaded digital file created using special software automatically updates itself.

Digital Calliper by Unfold David Peskens
Photograph by David Peskens

Using digital measuring removes any margin of human error so once the file is printed, the top slots onto the vessel perfectly.

Digital Calliper by Unfold David Peskens
Photograph by David Peskens

"Early graphical interfaces had to be invented from scratch, and one popular way to deal with the abstract nature of 'the digital' was to work with metaphors," said the team.

Digital Calliper by Unfold David Peskens
Photograph by David Peskens

"Drawing and painting applications use familiar 'real world' instruments from the artists workshop, like a pencil, paintbrush, spray can, paint bucket and so on, and translate them into digital counterparts with similar functions."

Digital Calliper by Unfold David Peskens
Photograph by David Peskens

"In this project, [we] explore the possibilities of taking back these non physical instruments, and returning them to the real world without loosing their digital functions," they said.

Digital Calliper by Unfold
Photograph by Peter Verbrugen

Following a preview of the project at Lodz Design Festival, Of Instruments and Archetypes will be on show at the Keyshapes exhibition in Eindhoven from 18 to 26 October during this year's Dutch Design Week.

Movie by Joris Peskens.