UCPLA - Urushi Coated Poly-Lactic Acid -

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Urushi, also known as “ancient Asian lacquer”, has a long cultural history in East Asia. The decline of Japan’s urushi industry can be attributed to an ageing and shrinking population of woodturners, which has resulted in high costs and a scarcity of wooden bases for urushi crafts. This project combines 3D printing technology with traditional urushi craftsmanship to optimise the production of these bases. Using 3D printed Polylactic Acid (PLA) rather than carved wooden bases, it hopes to revitalise Japan’s urushi industry with a sustainable solution that is also efficient, affordable, reproducible, and allows for creative design exploration. The transformation involves precise 3D printing, followed by sanding and applying urushi to the surface. Using natural plant-derived resins, the success lies in the collaboration between PLA layers and urushi lacquer. Through Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printing, gaps are created between layers, allowing Urushi to penetrate through capillary action. This infusion strengthens the bond between the PLA layers, increasing their longevity and durability. Urushi’s biodegradability and antibacterial properties also improve the strength and waterproofing of PLA, making it a practical and eco-friendly alternative to wood. A smooth, glossy finish is achieved through burnishing with rapeseed oil. To enhance the aesthetic appeal and expand the creative possibilities of 3D printed Urushi art-crafts, various techniques and pigments can be used: Kurosabi, which resembles black rust with lacquer and diatomaceous earth; Shirosabi, which replicates the appearance of white rust using urushi and titanium pigment; and traditional Japanese pigments such as Bengara, which is made from iron oxide, adds depth and richness to the artworks. Lastly, the sprinkling of copper onto urushi and the subsequent growth of copper rust known as Rokusho results in unique textures. Red Dot Award: Design Concept | Concept | 3D Printed

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