Parallel to an increase in mass market technologies, in recent years we have witnessed the emergence of dynamics related to DIY practices and the democratization and sharing of knowledge and technologies through Fab Lab, open source schools, online culture makers and service platforms for custom manufacturing, or to create useful tools at low cost. These dynamics have fueled the desire of consumers to become an active part in the manufacture and creation of products, and so more and more services have emerged from companies and industries to respond to the growing demand for customization of unique products.

These new approaches combine making, craftsmanship and custom digital fabrication with a growing understanding of programming languages, giving rise to what is called the third wave of DIY that extends to anyone the power to invent, design, make and or sell the products they imagine for themselves[1]. How should the designer stand before the industry and the user in this context?

He should know how to create a new relationship between technologies, processes, materials and users, grasp the great opportunity to experience individual or shared production processes and at the same time to be able to dialogue with industry and technological advancement that requires being increasingly multitasking and multifunctional. The designer should be updated as much on the software as on robotics, on communication as well as on the user experience, still trying to find a specificity or a research line that distinguishes his work.

Today the designer is called to produce and distribute his work autonomously, in the majority of cases through limited financial resources, which have stimulated in this sense the development of forms of autonomous production and reverse innovation through learning by doing and learning by interacting. Thanks to DIY materials practices, trials and error processes and easily convertible low-cost technologies (for example, 3D printers) designers are able to absorb the risk in terms of economic and environmental impact, as they tend to produce on demand and locally in small quantities of material [2].

In “Materials and Design Journal” the notion of “DIY Materials” by the authors Valentina Rognoli, Massimo Bianchini, Stefano Maffei and Elvine Karana, perfectly captures the idea of the emergence of new self-produced materials and new generative systems of product design that bring to the creation of a different aesthetic offered by the practices related to the material, such as the imperfect surfaces given by the uniqueness of the process / performance that defined the product. Also according to the book “Speculative Everything” the designer of the new millennium must be able to explore, hybridize, borrow knowledge, and embrace all possible tools for modeling not only objects but also ideas [3].

The design must ask questions, provoke, inspire and redefine our relationship with reality; through an emerging cultural landscape of ideas / ideals and approaches, it must operate in the probable and preferable with a pluralism not so much of styles as of systems and processes. The task of design is to dialogue with experts and scientists on the idea of possible futures, to forget how things are today and wondering how they could be tomorrow. Being able to cooperate and communicate effectively with scientists and materials’ technicians allows the designer to develop transversal knowledge by borrowing the principles of the science of materials and translating them into intuitive experiences. In this way, the designer has the opportunity to influence the development of materials directly from their emergence in laboratories, and to develop properties and functionality on demand.

Consequently, an added value that the designer can make to the development of materials in the laboratories is an investigation of the link between their physical properties and the subjective experiences of the users, linked to the sensorial influence. In this sense, the designer can analyze the relationship between material, form and context of use that can influence the user experience and consequently the choice of certain products over others [4]. Digital manufacturing is playing a key role in experimentation and technological advancement also in the health and personal care sectors and will be one of the sectors with the highest potential in the coming years for the improvement of living conditions.

A report published by Allied Market Research sees the 3D printing market for the healthcare world grow at an average rate of 26.2% between now and 2020. For example, dental printing is growing rapidly, with the prospect of achieving one of the largest market shares in the near future (around 15% in 2020), as well as 3D printing of medical implants and devices (around 13% in 2020). Currently the fields where we experiment more include: tissue engineering, surgery for the realization of accurate models of experimentation before complicated interventions, traumatology, orthodontics, orthopedics with tailored prostheses, the realization of absorbable and bio-compatible guardians for complex operations, bone regeneration, reproduction of human organs with 3D printing of organic materials, pharmaceuticals for the realization of tailor-made and on-demand drugs. A small space is covered by cosmetics, which has not yet seen significant research or significant growth in reference to digital manufacturing.

The main innovations that will guide the digital fabrication into the healthcare sector will be linked to multi-material printing, the ability of technology to provide customized and personalized medical devices with bio-compatible materials, and the portability of printing devices. Although in lower percentage compared to the medical field, cosmetics have tried to leverage 3D printing, focusing precisely on customization, self-production and portability of printing devices. One of the few examples in this sense is the small Mink printer that produces make-up: connected to a personal computer allows – through one of the many image editing software – to apply any color to eye shadows, blush, lip gloss and any another type of makeup. Mink opens a breach in the world of 3D printing and makes it more understandable to the masses, focusing for now on the target of teenagers between 15 and 21 years.

The world of cosmetics tends to offer smart solutions that respond to the need to take care of oneself in a few minutes, but at the same time paying attention to the products used, better if not tested on animals, without packaging and easily customizable. In cosmetics, the patches are getting high attention in the market. Used for a long time in medicine for the administration of drugs with continuous release, the patches have invaded the entire market since 2004, thanks to the practicality and variety of proposals; these are used to enhance slimming and toning treatments and anti-aging treatments, to which are added patches in soothing, anti-acne and various uses.

The Anura collection was born from the vision of possible futures and from an inspiration born after reading the book “New Babylon” by the Dutch architect and artist Constant Nieuwenhuys, who imagined a utopian society in which the complete automation and socialization of the means of production would have made the freer men to move and to devote themselves to work in a playful and less slave-like way. The homo ludens of his conception, in my mind has triggered rather the vision of the digital nomadic alchemist: he who, thanks to digital manufacturing tools that are shared or easily transportable, is able to make the objects he needs, transforming his own scraps and / or materials from the various places in which he finds himself.

“Nomadism as a rejection of the systems of capitalist production, as a refusal to the accumulation of goods, as a rejection of any ethical or economic boundary. Nomadism for a new use of time, space and our life” wrote Constant. Embracing the theme of self-production – which sees in the very near future people producing objects, ornaments, food, medicines and cosmetics alone through the use of digital fabrication – during the Master of Higher Education at the Città della Scienza in Naples named D.RE.AM Academy – Design, Research, Advanced Manufacturing I carried out a transdisciplinary research, between the world of design and the bio-medical / bio world-cosmetic, with focus on patches in collaboration with Carla Langella from Hybrid Design Lab (Dipartimento DICDEA) and Giuseppe Salerno from  Fab Lab “Biologic”, Cava De Tirreni.

The Master gave me the opportunity to carry out part of the final research at the IPCB laboratories, the Institute of polymers, composites and biomaterials within the CNR di Pozzuoli, working in close contact with materials and collaborating with chemists and technologists Giovanni Dal Poggetto and Salvatore Mallardo. The result of the research is Anura, a collection of ornamental and transdermal patches with curative and anti-shock properties. The patches are composed of biological hydrogels with beneficial active ingredients, they are realized through 3D printing techniques and are biocompatible and biodegradable. After an average use of 8/16 hours, they can be disposed as normal organic waste, or re-use again if they are soaked with water and desired beneficial principles. In this way the patches do not produce waste and are customizable according to the tastes of users and skin problems to be treated.

The aim of Anura project is to create decorative patches with curative properties, controlled release of principles, starting from low-cost biological materials and through additive printing techniques. Biological material means an organic material of natural origin, which therefore derives from a process of a plant, animal or microbial organism; in the case of Anura the patches are made with a mix of three materials that include all three natural origins.


Anura is a research that aims to investigate the relationship between biological materials and products of digital manufacturing – in the specifics of additive manufacturing – using and intersecting three study approaches: the first is aimed at creating a common collaborative research scenario with experts, including technologists and chemists, to make the science of materials dialogue with possible future visions of design, specifically in the biomedical field and in bio-cosmetics. The second approach is inteded to emphasize and use the dynamics around the emerging phenomena of Material Experience and DIY Materials and Practices to get to customize the process and the creation of a material, locally produced on-demand, to be used in digital manufacturing.

The third one, finally, intends to use an industrious rather than an industrial design, to increase the knowledge in the creation of the necessary tools of digital manufacturing also through hacking / modifying practices and alternative production processes, controlling in this way all the aspects of the realization and arriving at a typology of self-sufficient design, that is aimed at greater autonomy and social innovation.


[1] – S.Fox,Third Wave Do-It-Yourself (DIY): potential for prosumption, innovation, and entrepreneurship by local populations in regions without industrial manufacturing infrastructure, Technol. Soc. 39 (2014) pag 18 – 30.

[2] – Materials and Design 86 (2015) 692–702 – DIY materials – Valentina Rognoli, Massimo Bianchini, Stefano Maffei, Elvin Karana.

[3] – Speculative everything: design, fiction, and social dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

[4] – Material and Design xxx (2015) xxx–xxx – Design tools for interdisciplinary translation of material experiences – Sarah Wilkes, Supinya Wongsriruksa, Philip Howes, Richard Gamester, Harry Witchel, Martin Conreen, Zoe Laughlin, Mark Miodownik.

[5] – Material and Design  30 (2009) 2778–2784 – Meanings of materials through sensorial properties and manufacturing processes – Elvin Karana, Paul Hekkert, Prabhu Kandachar.

[6] – European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 66 (2015) 20–28 – Spray-by-spray in situ cross-linking alginate hydrogels delivering a tea tree oil microemulsion – O. Catanzano, M.C. Straccia, A. Miro, Ungaro, I. Romano, G. Mazzarella, G. Santagata, F. Quaglia, P. Laurienzo, M. Malinconico.

[7] – Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A DOI 10.1002 – Development of a new calcium sulphate-based composite using alginate and chemically modified chitosan for bone regeneration – Giovanna Gomez d’Ayala, Alfredo De Rosa, Paola Laurienzo, Mario Malinconico.

All the photos were taken by photographer Valentino Ruggiero.

The model in all the photos with patches is Nella Califano.