Duration: 2.12.19 - 3.12.19
Products: Alimex products can be found in mobile phones, manufacturing robots in the automotive industry, solar roofs, leisure and sports equipment or flat screens. Alimex sources raw aluminium bars from Alcoa in Norway and transform these blocks via multi-axis CNC- milling to high precision goods. Since 2015 they are creating a byproduct from their own production named Stylecast. It is utilized for wall panelling and interior decoration.
By-product: For their conventional production, Alimex is cutting off the outer layer of the raw aluminium bars. In contrast to precise parts, this by-product is bumpy and uneven on the outer surface. Alimex is marketing top and bottom of the 600mm x 5000mm x 2900mm bars as Stylecast in various high end finishings. The sides of the bars though, the so-called shoulders, are labelled with batch numbers and measurements and are not used as Stylecast. These remaining panels are sent back to the aluminium plants, where they will be processed to new aluminium bars.
Inspiration: In 2017 Alimex had a collaboration with KISD, in which students had the chance to design products with the Stylecast material. Due to staff turnover, communication problems and production issues with our designed products, this collaboration petered out for my working group. Therefore, I saw my bachelor thesis as a chance to revive this collaboration. I was inspired by the already mentioned shoulders. The contrast between the precision and the roughness and the communicated original properties of the aluminium bar via labelling made this by-product so appealing to me.
Organisation: Since Alimex has already acknowledged the potential of the cast skin panels themselves, there was not much persuasive effort needed. The attention for an alternate use of their by- product was already given.
Potentials: When the shoulders of the original aluminium bar are cut off, the cutting surface becomes levelled. Due to the pouring process, the long sides of the bar are rounded. These rounded edges remain unchanged in the shoulder parts of the bar. In the actual Stylecast product, the top and bottom part of the bar, these edges are non-existent. Since Alimex is a precision aluminium fabricator, they have all conceivable possibilities on site to proceed with this by-product.
Challenges: Because the by-product has just one even surface, it would not be possible to flip the panels on the milling table. Therefore, every material manipulation has to be single sided.
Goals: I want to use the material properties in its most original form. The rounded edges of the shoulders are perfect for the front edge of a seating surface. Therefore, I designed a collection of furnishings using exactly this existing potential. The labelling and transportation marks on the material will not be removes and represent an essential part of the material history.
Production: The by-product is constantly produces as a result of the conventional production at Alimex. consequently, I had a reliable material to design with. I selected a shoulder from Alcoa in Norway to build a bench. The panel was cut into parts with oversize. On a CNC-mill, the parts were edged to the final measurements and drill holes were placed. As a last step, Sharp edges were broken and threads were cut into the sides. With an Allen key, the bench could be easily assembled.
Reflexion: Since Alimex has a very tight schedule and complex machineries that need to be operated by a skilled craftsman, the advance planning was challenging. Although the circumstances were very strict, there was room for spontaneous changes and decisions. These improvisational adjustments were possible because I was working directly with the operating employee.
In this collaboration, a main aspect of my concept was to treat the disregarded shoulder parts of the cast skin like treasures. I designed the cutting plan for a collection of furnishings, that are entirely made from two shoulders of one bar, so there is as little offcut material as possible.
Prospect: If there would be a second opportunity to produce products from the cast aluminium skin in collaboration with Alimex, I would be glad to realise also the other designs I had in mind. Since this collaboration has thought me the importance of participation in the production one more time, I would like to plan again as much as possible but still leave room for spontaneity and improvisation.
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