Wednesday, 14 May 2014

From the Distant Past into the Future

 A Day in the Life of Team MoDiP
Team MoDiP began their intrepid, roving day out of the confines of the Museum with a whistle stop visit to the British PlasticsFederation (BPF - which is the trade association for the UK plastics industry) for the installation of the latest mini MoDiP Exhibitions Brighten Your Life with Plastics and Recycle with Plastics. The team had selected a range of brightly coloured everyday objects including cameras, telephones and bags and a not so everyday object in the form of Captivate – a lamp made entirely out of recycled items including cola bottle tops; it was designed by Lucy Norman to turn London waste into recycled, beautiful items. The exhibits are displayed in two presentation cabinets at the British Plastics Federation for a period of approximately six months. 

Brighten you Life with Plastics and Recycle with Plastics displays at the British Plastics Federation

The very welcoming lady at reception was delighted with the change as it was time for a refresher for the eye. A light and all too brief lunch in the very popular Carluccio's followed by a visit to the stunning halls of the Science Museum where we were met by Dr Susan Mossman,– the Science Museum’s materials science specialist and MoDiP’s Curatorial Advisor. After dropping off our suitcase of MoDiP exhibits, collected from the BPF, we were taken on a small tour where Susan’s enthusiasm was engaging. Leading us through the main hall we stopped to view that very important early plastic – Parkesine. 
The Alexander Parkes display at the Science Museum, London

Susan gave us further insight into the life of Alexander Parkes – the creator of Parkesine - and his family, explaining how he had never gained real recognition for his work in life and had died not realising the full importance for future generations of his discoveries. I pondered on the fact that he would have been amazed and delighted to see his portrait in the great halls of the Science Museum. Parkesine is the name for the first semi-synthetic plastic, which was patented in 1856. Although Alexander Parkes’ company started out with high hopes, unfortunately it went into liquidation within two years – possibly due to the desire to keep the price of Parkesine very low. 

Some of the Parkesine objects on show.

Our next stop was a truly compelling presentation on 3D printing, giving us an intriguing glimpse into the future of design. We were given a detailed explanation of the processes by Elise Allthorpe-Mullis – Content Developer at the Science Museum. 3D printing works by laying down materials in layers in a sequential process. It has, in fact, been in existence since the 1970s – however it is only in the 2010s that it is starting to become more widely acknowledged and available. Previously high costs made its use prohibitive. 3D printing machines have also been refined to make them more usable to consumers. 

The excellent 3D Printing the Future exhibition at the Science Museum
The wall was covered with an explosion of 3D printed objects.

Personally I have not had any dealings with this incredible technology so I was absolutely riveted by it. To think that we can create fully workable prototypes through printing and bring ideas truly alive is just wonderful. It gives power to creative people from all backgrounds who may now be able to see their ideas come to life in 3D. It has already been put to very good use helping people from a medical point of view and reducing production costs. It has a controversial side too; one Finnish journalist used the technology to print a 3D gun from data that is readily available on the Internet – fortunately the gun disintegrated upon firing – but it is easy to see how this use of 3D printing could cause alarm. However, when you look at all the wonderful things that can be created from this astounding technology its benefits appear to far outweigh any potential downsides. 

We would all like to thank Susan and Elise for the time and knowledge they shared with us.

Julie Connery (MoDiP Administrator)

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