“Two duplication machines separated by more than 150 years of technology”
– Documentary on Benjamin Cheverton
Idea Lab at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Benjamin Cheverton, Art Gallery of Toronto
(image: Anesta Iwan)
There is one person who everyone should know and credit for the concept of 3D scanning and printing – Benjamin Cheverton. I first came across his name at an exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) just this past month. There is one room that is populated with tiny bust sculptures – roughly the size of a fist or smaller – these are a few of the first machine-replicated sculptures ever made (originals by Sir Francis Chantrey, Joseph Nollekens, L F Roubilliac and Joseph Durham).
He takes the same logic to a pantograph and applies it into the third dimension! What is a pantograph? In the most basic term, it is a device that consists of a scissor arm that has historically been used to copy and scale images. This mechanism generates conditions of similar angles so it’s easy to produce two similar drawings at different scales. By tracing a dummy stick around an original sculpture, the shorter end (equipped with a chisel) would slowly carve away the block of plaster or ivory stock and produce a smaller replica of the original sculpture. Keep in mind that this was happening in 1850s!
Replica of Benjamin Cheverton’s 3D Pantograph, AGO
(image: Anesta Iwan)
It is rather humorous that now we look for ways to reverse that process. How can we take a small study model and have the technology be able to it scale it up to full size? How can our 3-inch model eventually be a 3-foot model or even a 30-foot construction? Similar to Cheverton’s 3D-pantograph, though without the long connecting stick, can we store certain construction maneuvers and re-apply them on a larger scale? Imagine a small robot named Pico who can teach his older brother Hecto how to build a pyramid!
(image: Nish Kothari + Anesta Iwan)
Artist/designer Madeline Gannon whom I’ve written about prior is looking at ways in which humans can teach an industrial robot how to maneuver through basic human hand gestures. But can we extend that further so that instead of teaching a giant robot, can we tame a smaller robot who can then impart its knowledge to its larger counterpart? As architects, we work with miniature models all the time because it is just not feasible to do tests at a one-to-one scale. But often times, there is a huge translation disconnect between the hand-held model and the final mock up. Instead, can we now conveniently carry a Pico in our pockets and use it to conduct real studies of construction on our work stations? Pico, like Cheverton’s Pantograph, is smart and he will lead us, as well as Hecto, into the next 150 years.