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Facadeprinter: Graffiti Meets Paintball

Automating anti-establishment, or what street art has to do with disaster relief.

Much of street art revolves around the cult of the individual creator, creeping through the night to meticulously paint, stencil or tag a wall by hand. But can technology subvert this ethos? Facadeprinter is an inkjet printer in architectonical scale — a simple, software-controlled robot that shoots artwork from a distance of up to 12 meters, dot by dot, onto the target surface area. Think Banksy meets paintball meets ChalkBot — in other words, graffiti for geeks.

Designed by German duo Martin Fussenegger and Michael Sebastian, Facadeprinter can render artwork as large as 8 by 10 meters and, depending on the paint used, can produce permanent or temporary images. Besides the obvious uses in large-scale street art and advertising installations, the technology could have some interesting and rather useful applications in disaster relief, where the rapid printing process can enable quick and effective visual communication signaling shelter, food and water, danger zones, or medical aid.

Design is research. Driven by the desire to discover and understand. Above all a new design comes from a foreshadowing, which is looked into. Step by step this turns into an insight. If someone finally senses the result as being ‘beautiful’ or ‘new’, these are the many steps required of understanding, which produce a coherent whole. New aesthetics through new technology. Thus the Facadeprinter and the resulting rough printed appearance inseparably belong together.”

Here’s how it works: An integrated laser displays a bounding box of the artwork onto the wall, affixing its position. A paintball system converted into a printhead then shoots the color balls onto the wall, conveying the gelatine-encapsulated color balls to the marker where they are accelerated to a speed of 200km per hour. Upon contact with the wall, the balls burst, leaving dots 5 to 10 cm in diameter. The emptied out gelatine shells fall down to the ground where they can decompose naturally after rain without residue.

What makes Facadeprinter particularly interesting is that it’s an odd intersection of art and algorithm, raising questions of whether we can automate street art and preserve its message, and whether urban visual communication can serve as a design-driven humanitarian solution.


Published July 20, 2010




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