Reflections on Pier 9 Residency Answered
My residency on the Pier lasted from January through June 2014, a total of six incredibly busy months, during which time I built a 3D printer with an un-bounded build volume and a low cost metal laser sintering 3D printer. It took nearly three months to learn to handle the overwhelming potential of each new day on the Pier. The Pier is such a focal point of creative energy and flux-- every day the Pier hosts thought leaders in design, fabrication, art, and engineering. I've never seen such a critical density of talent.
In the residency program, I had the unique opportunity to collaborate with fashion designers, furniture makers, illustrators, and other engineers with a freedom and agility that I've never seen anywhere else. In one of many sudden collaborations, Anouk Wipprecht returned from a trip to LA and showed me an SLS 3D printed tentacle that she was considering using in a dress she was designing. I began thinking about FDM-printable compliant mechanisms and designed a tentacle more compatible with the fabrication process. Mikaela Holmes then saw the tentacles that I was printing and based on her input, I ran a couple more iterations. She then showed Paolo Salvagione these more developed designs, who in turn took it even further by adding servo-actuation to automate the piece's motion. Mikaela then iterated on the concept for several weeks, and settled on a multimaterial Objet fabrication process to make her amazing blossoming headdress. This kind of interaction could only have happened in the residency program.
The other striking thing about the Pier is the learning infrastructure that surrounds each machine and process. Residents can get trained up on a machine under the instruction of the shop staff who have put together amazing documentation surrounding each machine (just see Dan Vidokavich's Haas VF-2SS video series). Tools, it turns out, aren't very useful unless you know how to use them and the Pier is full of extremely knowledgeable folks who always teaching through even the smallest actions. It's a very positive and healthy culture of always giving each other a hand.
I have also never encountered so much support for realizing such personal projects. Noah Weinstein and Vanessa Sigurdson made sure no obstacle was insurmountable. When I needed to move my 3D metal printer prototype briefly off the Pier, Noah immediately located additional space and helped me move my prototype that weekend. Julia Cabral, Autodesk's environmental health and safety officer was also an amazing resource and advisor to my metal printer project, which involved high voltage, high powered lasers, explosive materials, and pressurized gases. Not only did Julia do tons of research to advise on proper sealing, venting, material selection, and gas sensing techniques, she also helped me draw up all the associated safety protocols for operating the prototype machine.
I'd recommend the residency program to artists, designers, and engineers alike. The human and fabrication resources tare unparalleled and reside in a spectacular culture based on respect, openness, and mutual support.