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Gravity Pot


This pot was inspired by the recent popular fascination with products that rely on tensegrity: a design principle that allows a lower element to support a higher element using string alone. But instead of string, I used 3D printed chain, in the spirit of making the pot of a single material.

A few examples that got me thinking about potential design directions:


Table by Louis Nairaud  |  Structure by Extinction Rebellion

At their best, tensegrity structures are mind-bending. At first glance - or at times 20 glances - it seems impossible that a heavy object can float without anything stiff holding it up.

My goal with this piece was to evoke this sense of awe/disbelief, but not in a showy way. It was important that the tensegrity be subordinate to the design as a whole. 

Another inspiration was Ming Dynasty ceramics, which feature elegant silhouettes, often relying on walls that curve subtly outward, as though a hanging sheet were touched by a gentle breeze. 

ming vase.png

Timeless sophistication. Credit: New York Times


I initially designed the piece curve-by-curve in CAD, but the result was graceless. Since iterating in this manual way would have sucked up too much time, I created a program in Rhino Grasshopper that allowed me to experiment with with the size, shape, and positioning of the elements.

This kind of experimentation is increasingly important to me, as I focus more on harmony of proportion and scale.

Of course, formal harmony is irrelevant if the product doesn't function well. In the case of this pot, that meant ensuring the proper placement of drainage channels, creating walls of adequate depth and size, and giving the chains enough strength to support a heavy plant. 

On the latter count, unfortunately, the result was not a resounding success. The chain links were beefy enough in CAD, but they lost integrity due to the two-material printing process (more on that in a second). I tested the pot with loads up to 1.5 kg, but I wouldn't trust it with more than 2.5 kg.

Sure, I could have used invisible fishing wire instead of chain, but that would have decimated the cool factor of a pot made of a single, interconnected piece of 3D printed plastic - which, for all I know, may be the first of its kind in the world.

A second iteration on the pot indeed improved chain performance and base strength (note the duct-taped over crack in v1 below). But alas, not to the degree I'd hoped.


Another hurdle was the length and expense of the print. At three and a half days long, many things can go wrong, in particular with the dissolvable PVA filament necessary to print geometry hanging in mid-air. And with so much hanging geometry, nearly a kilo of (very expensive) PVA was required. 

In the end, I'd say it makes a handsome and technically innovative pot, although one more suited to a humble bonsai than a rose bush.

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