When it comes to working with sustainable materials, bamboo is among the most widely-used for good reason: although it is technically a grass, it is the fastest-growing woody plant on Earth. Additionally, the plant’s complex underground system of roots and rhizomes remain intact and a specimen is able to quickly regenerate itself at the rate of 20 percent per year – gaining health with each thinning. In comparison, it takes at least forty years for more traditional hardwoods such as cedar to grow to post size.
It should come with little surprise then, that in an age where there’s a never-ending cycle of plastic being thrown in the landfill, an increasing amount of product designers are looking at ways of using the material that both highlight the natural cylindrical properties while also utilizing those properties into functional housings for usable products. Among others who have explored how the material can be used consistently and cleanly in a mass manufacturing process include French industrial designer Samy Rio.
The designer, whose previous work has also included the use of considered design to create sustainable objects, started his bamboo-focused Tube Story exploration by crafting an industrial processing machine that would be capable of churning out consistent bamboo pieces that could be used in a mass manufacturing process. The resulting machine – which he has named a CNC 360 Mark II – resembles a sort of hybrid between a lathe and a CNC mill that is capable of sculpting the bamboo pieces into usable tubes:
“This machine doesn’t really exist but it was important for me to imagine it because it became a thinking tool for me: when I was experimenting on the material, it made me able to imagine how the object I was drawing and building could be industrially produced.”
With the finished round tubes as a starting point, he further explored the possible applications for them and ended up with two designs that currently contribute to a significant amount of plastic waste and also highlight the potential of the new bamboo-based manufacturing process: a hair dryer and a wireless bluetooth speaker. According to Rio, “the purpose of this project is not to greenwash with yet another sustainable material, but rather to rethink industrial production and product conception in a realistic way.”
In addition to the components themselves being sustainable by design, Rio also had design for disassembly in mind when creating the parts for making the electronic devices easy to fix through considered repairability. As for controls, capacitive sensors can be easily placed within the bamboo material. For finishing, various logos and icons can be directly engraved into the bamboo using the lathe/CNC hybrid process followed by a layer of non-toxic paint.
While the products are purely in a conceptual stage right now, they’re among the finest we’ve seen that highlight the true potential of using the world’s fastest growing material into marketable and usable (and good-looking) consumer products.