Hands-free pottery

A new machine allows users to make beautiful clay sculptures without ever coming in contact with the muddy material.

While there may be something very sensual about getting your hands dirty in the process of making a clay sculpture, a new technology could eliminate the tactile experience of this art form.

Belgian design firm Unfold have teamed up with graphic designer Tim Knapen to create a machine that allows users to sculpt virtually.

The “Electric Artisan” comprises a 3D laser scanner and a RepRap, a printer that can create three-dimensional objects. Users control a virtual wireframe pot with their hands while a green laser and video camera track the positions and movements of their fingers and makes the necessary changes to the pottery. So you simply move your hands in the air, mimicking the way you want your design to look. These motions are then captured, deciphered and reflected on screen.

Once the sculptor is satisfied with the virtual creation, the wireframe design is sent to the printer, which produces the design in layers of real clay. The user is left with a unique sculpture – and clean hands.