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Hydro-Fold: A Printer That Spits Out Easy-To-Make Origami

Can your desktop printer do this? Well, it could.

3-D printing is all the rage, and printers are getting so small and affordable that even home tinkerers have the possibility of instantaneously seeing their computer creations rendered in solid form. For those on a super-tight budget, there’s the possibility of convert a run-of-the-mill desktop printer into a machine that turns paper into self-folding, origami-like structures.

The Hydro-Fold printer is the handiwork of Christophe Guberan, a third-year design student at the Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), which will be unveiling the project this week at Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. The transformative magic centers on a simple tweak: Guberan replaced the regular ink in the printer cartridge with an ink-and-water mixture, which, when printed onto paper in various patterns, creates fold lines. As the paper dries, it contorts and retracts along the damp areas, creating three-dimensional, sculptural objects.

ECAL will present Hydro-Fold as an installation of three ink-jet printers actively churning out souvenirs for enthralled fairgoers. And it will stand as an inspiring example of how conventional (and increasingly obsolete) pieces of technology can be appropriated for more dynamic uses.

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