‘3D printing’ with wool
Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma designed a robot especially made to create three dimensional structures with wool.
In the Netherlands alone, 1.5 million kg of wool is thrown away annually, as Dutch sheep are bred for meat and landscaping, not their wool.
Called the FLOCKS Wobot, the collaborative robot (cobot) to make 3D structures from local European wools that would otherwise be disposed of. It doesn’t add any materials or uses water in the felting process, only wool, using a needle felting technique (puncturing the wool with a barbed needle until it turns to felt). The resulting material can be used as a more environmentally friendly substitute for materials like foam rubber, glass wool, stone wool, and polystyrene foam.
The machine works with all different types of wool, but coarse wool varieties are the most effective. The wool doesn’t have to be processed at all, only washed. Besides using natural virgin wool, it is also possible to blend the wool with recycled wool to add color and create a rich color palette.
Simultaneously with the Wobot, Meinderstma also created Block wool, using a custom developed production technique to make wool in blocks without additives or binders. The technique is especially meant to find a purpose for local wool from local herds, starting with the ‘Kempisch Heideschaap’, a breed local to the Southern part of the Netherlands.
Photos: Christien Meindertsma / Mathijs Labadie, Roel van Tour