We know that headline sounds totally absurd, but bear with us, because what we've got here will blow. Your. Mind.
The robot we speak of is Fanuc, a clunky, but speedy old machine late of a Chinese production line. The refrigerators: disused models ground up into bead-like bits. The chairs — the work of Dutch design student Dirk Vander Kooij — are made by melting the refrigerator bits, then tapping Fanuc to squeeze the resulting goo out of a tube, layer by layer in a pre-programmed sequence, as if decorating a cake. Two hours later, you've spawned a sturdy, modern little chair that looks like it came straight out of the Blu Dot catalog.
The chairs are cool and all but what's really exciting is what they represent: a new development in rapid prototyping that bridges the divide between mass production and one-off design. Normally, it takes eons to 3-D print anything bigger than your palm; Fanuc is able to print at a low resolution, so it can do a lot more work in a lot less time. The best part: The chairs still manage to be entirely customizable. Vander Kooij can program Fanuc to spit them out in any shape, size, and color — hell, you could even request stripes. If the machine worked round the clock for a year, it would produce more than 4,000 chairs, each one unique.
[Update: The chairs are for sale! Each costs 800 Euros or approximately $1050. Email Vander Kooij for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. —Eds]
[Images courtesy of Dirk Vander Kooij]