Tubular Tape Gun “Sketches” Furniture You Can Never Sit On

Sometimes you just need a life-sized model. When you do, reach for your (highly modified) tape gun and get drawing.

As the Protopiper team describes it, the “gun” is a computer-aided hand held fabrication device for imagining layouts of large objects — the main example they give is furniture. Want to make sure that couch will fit? Why not spend 10 minutes building a tape model of it?

Sound crazy? Kind of, but the device itself is rather ingenious. It takes normal tape, measures it, and rolls it into tube form, which results in a surprisingly strong structure allowing you to build 3D shapes quite easily. From a design point of view it’s quite brilliant.

From the mechanism that rolls the tape into a structural tube to the winged end-connectors that allow you to easily attach to another tube or structure, the whole thing must have gone through many design iterations to get right. We’re impressed.

Alternatively for printing extremely large shapes, why not build a building sized delta-bot?


37 thoughts on “Tubular Tape Gun “Sketches” Furniture You Can Never Sit On

  1. Imagine if you had a thing like cans of “Great Stuff” foam attached to this
    When the tube-making ends, the thing fills it in with foam and then closes the tape.
    A few hours later, the foam’s solidified and can hold (some) weight.

    Not strong enough for chairs or a couch, but might do for some light duty shelving, coat hanger rod, etc.

      1. But it WOULD pop the seams unless you used the “door & window” variety that wouldn’t add enough rigidity to overcome its own weight. I’ve used vast amounts of the various types of Great Stuff in my big remodeling project, and have been amazed by how much damage it can do if you’re not really careful about the amount you use and where you place it.

    1. Interesting idea. Although there’s always a way. Perhaps something like a beanbag chair. This reminds me of those 3d printing pens. With the hot wire style cutting it does beg the question how long the batteries last. I suspect a blade might be a little more efficient.

      1. You can get a *lot* of hot-wire cutting done with even a fairly small LiPo battery pack. There’s not much thermal mass in the nichrome wire or the tape, so it doesn’t take much energy to heat up to cutting temperature.

  2. I was most of the way to thinking; “meh. Tape and a roll former; my grandad did that in the 70s”

    Then I saw the hot-wire cut-and-split mechanism. Holy Hotwire Batman! That’s a neat mechanism!

  3. It’s so cute, but so impractical… A big wooden Tinkertoy-type set would be vastly less expensive (reusable parts, for one thing) and easier to work with. Even if you cut the sticks into disposable custom lengths like the tape gun does its plastic tubes, they’d still be much less expensive. For strength & rigidity similar to the plastic tubes, they could be thin enough that you could snip them with a hand tool and not need a messy saw (and note how much nasty smoke the plastic tubing cutter makes for each cut). Make ’em out of bamboo fibers and they’d be a lot “greener” than this plastic eater.

    The “3D printer” obsession is making folks ignore good ol’ fashioned ways of accomplishing the same things.

    1. Wood would be less expensive than tape!? Besides that, where would you store your sticks when you’re not using them? Which would be most of the time. This is an interesting idea for what it does, delimiting bits of space. Dunno how much more practical it is that just imagining your new cupboards, and using a tape measure, but it’s a lot better than using bits of wood.

  4. Good for space frames in a zero g environment. Seems to me I have seen it on some space construction video except they had it spewing out girders, so it must be like the seamless gutters “on a roll” meshed into a box shape.

    1. In the 80’s someone invented a girder extruder that used rolls of flat metal then formed three strips with a lengthwise fold for the corners. One or two other strips were wrapped around the corner strips and fastened. I don’t recall if it used rivets or spotwelds.

      The idea was to build space station girders on the spot in orbit instead of having to loft pre-built and very bulky sections of girder trusses. Of course NASA wasn’t interested, not enough to fly one on a Shuttle for a test.

  5. That’s brilliant, now it only takes half an hour to build a mock sofa out of plastic instead of the drudgery of taking 3 measurements with a tape measure.

    I’m impressed by the engineering, but seems this is a solution looking for a problem.

  6. ” Want to make sure that couch will fit? Why not spend 10 minutes building a tape model of it?”

    Because it takes less than 1 minute to confirm with a tape measure, since all you need is the outer dimensions of the object.

  7. Watch out on the patents, though. The tube forming stencils look very much like serviette shaping forms, which apparently could not get patented because of pre-existing historical sword hilts that, perhaps, rolled cloth or ribbon as adornment? Nolo Press book on patents mentions this very case, I think.

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