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Lion Sanguinette and Jonathan Stein were awarded ‘Best of Best’ in the German Design Council’s ‘one&twenty’ competition for young designers during Milan Design Week. They won over the jury with ‘Opencyclone’, a production system for open source hardware. We spoke to the duo from Burg Giebichenstein in Halle about their project and their plans for the future.

Interview: Markus Hieke

Lion Sanguinette and Jonathan Stein from Opencyclone | Photo: Giovanni Emilio Galanello

You both come from Burg Giebichenstein in Halle and have a background in industrial design. What do you like about your studies?

Jonathan Stein: I’m in my eighth semester and I’m going to do an exchange semester before I graduate next year. At our university, we are given a lot of tools and strategies, but we are not told which ones to apply to this or that problem. This means that we are relatively free to approach certain issues individually – this can mean a very artistic approach, a more strategic one or a political one. There are many ways to find your own core competencies.

Lion, what do you see as your core skills?

Lion Sanguinette: It’s easy for me to name them – after all, I finished my bachelor’s degree two weeks ago. Generally speaking, it’s in the direction of rapid prototyping, 3D printing, open source and circularity. But I’m also open to other things.

You realised your ‘Opencyclone’ project over the years. How did you come together?

Stein: At Burg Giebichenstein you learn the basics in the first two semesters and all the design courses are mixed together: Communication Design, Play and Learning Design, Porcelain, Ceramics, Glass and so on. In the second year, you will be taught methodical design exercises in the relevant year and subject area. From the third year on, the programme is mixed again – the focus is on more complex design tasks in which all higher semesters can participate.

Sanguinette: With Christian Zöllner, our professor who led the semester project, there is always an ideation phase that takes up about a third of the semester. During this time you look at what you have in mind and where there are overlaps with other students’ ideas. And since Jona and I were both going in the direction of „Open Source“, we teamed up.

Photo: Giovanni Emilio Galanello

What exactly did you develop together – and with what intention?

Sanguinette: The initial theme of our project was called ‘SLOC’, which stands for ‘small, local, open, connected’ and is based on an economic principle by the Italian design scientist Ezio Manzini. In short, it aims at the local production of everyday objects. Building on this, we have been exploring how open source can be used to improve supply chains and globally networked delivery systems. One of the reasons for this is that various crises repeatedly lead to problems and supply bottlenecks. During the coronavirus pandemic, this was evident in many places. So our question was: How can we manage to limit the production of various things to a local area? We came up with the idea of a system – a platform where people could register, offer their services, such as 3D printing, and connect with interested parties in the immediate area.

Stone: Our aim was to bring designers, consumers and producers together and create a dialogue. We are less interested in making money. What we want to prove or achieve is that you can potentially make money with the open source hardware approach, but more importantly you can make products locally. As an example, we have developed a vacuum cleaner, but the concept can be extended to many other products.

Winner exhibition of the “one&twenty” competition / Photo: Giovanni Emilio Galanello

On your project website you offer several models of handheld vacuum cleaners for home production. Why vacuum cleaners of all things? 

Stein: We wanted to focus on a household product like the vacuum cleaner because it is the object par excellence in the field of industrial design. It seems that everyone has to draw vacuum cleaners in their basic studies. And we wanted to prove that our platform idea could also be used to create more complex products. Since hardly anyone really knows how vacuum cleaners work technically, we want to encourage end users to get involved. There’s also the issue of repairability: instead of saying, OK, the vacuum cleaner doesn’t work any more, we’ll just throw it away and buy a new one, you could just get the one spare part or tool to fix it.

Sanguinette: In principle, something like this already exists on forums like Reddit or GitHub. But you can only download the files, and then you would have to find someone through classified ads to make a spare part with a 3D printer. This is only done by people who are more involved in the subject.

Do you make profit with the platform?

Stein: Manufacturers are paid for the services, products or components they provide. They would pay us a small fee to be represented on the platform.  

Sanguinette: Part of the concept is that we authenticate the suppliers – to ensure that they are able to produce the desired goods in the desired delivery time and quality, and that they are not selling frills.

What happens when the products on offer, such as vacuum cleaners, become too complex to be offered in a DIY-friendly way?

Sanguinette: Of course it’s difficult for us to compete with the likes of Dyson. But developing the new vacuum cleaner with laser-integrated technology and three times the suction power was not our focus.

Stein: It is always possible for people who want to take on the task to develop it further and upload it to OS Systems. That’s what the platform is there for. 

Winner exhibition of the “one&twenty” competition for young talent in Milan

How much prior knowledge is required to build something with your plans?

Stein: It depends on what you’re comfortable with. That’s why we once made a do-it-yourself vacuum cleaner out of a bottle of Persil, a hairdryer and a medical mask. You just have to be able to use scissors and a cutter. 

Sanguinette: It would also be possible to order the more complex Open Source Hoover from us, completely pre-assembled. Or you could find someone in your area on the network and have them make the parts. We want open source to be as accessible as possible and the application to be less dependent on time resources and expertise. This would have the potential to get people more involved with repair options when something breaks.

How involved are you in the DIY and open source design scene?

Sanguinette: I spend a lot of time on Reddit forums about 3D printing and would consider myself a bit of a nerd when it comes to it. I have two 3D printers at home and I post on the forums from time to time and get feedback. So for me, the open source theme was the cornerstone of our project.

Stein: I’m driven by all kinds of topics – always focusing on the contribution that industrial design can make. Right now I’m working on plants and the idea of resilience, what we can learn from our plant environment. Similar to the Opencyclone project, it is about how to minimise CO2 emissions and material waste.

How do you address the issue of sustainability in 3D printing?

Sanguinette: One challenge is that products need to be waterproof and last as long as possible. If your vacuum cleaner is biodegradable and falls apart after two months, it’s counterproductive. In principle, we print our objects with filaments made from PLA, which is based on lactic acid and is biodegradable – provided it is industrially composted. It is even more important to construct devices in such a way that no materials are mixed or inextricably glued together. This would only result in thermal recycling instead of the desired recycling. 

Stein: PLA has the advantage that it is completely recyclable. It can simply be shredded and processed into new filaments.

Apart from Ezio Manzini, were there any role models or anything that you modelled your work on? 

Sanguinette: At the beginning of our inspiration session, Jona brought along a blueprint for an open source power bank that someone had uploaded to a platform. We thought it was super cool because power banks are expensive and we thought: why not just build it ourselves? Unfortunately, the download for the 3D data was encrypted, so it turned out to be quite complicated. We thought there must be a simpler way. 

Stein: Of course, Ezio Manzini’s visions were a starting point for us to approach the subject. In addition, the principle of open source is spread across many websites and forums. But you have to hack into it quite deeply, so it’s not compatible with the masses. We wanted to bring it together. In fact, similar open source ideas already exist, but they are hidden behind a paywall somewhere, and you have to pay for the blueprints. This makes the process less accessible than we wanted it to be.

“Opencyclone” OS Systems

How are you developing the project now? Will there be more products?

Sanguinette: I’d like to get the site to the point where it’s functional and not just a prototype. And then I’ll probably upload my last university project.

Stein: It’s a great base for us, a project we can build on – although I’m still very involved in university projects at the moment. But I keep thinking about things that could be uploaded and made available. The one&twenty ‘best of the best’ award is definitely a great recognition that will help us move forward.

In Milan, Lion Sanguinette and Jonathan Stein received the of the newcomer award “one&twenty

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