Urbacraft — Simple but scalable building blocks to craft urban architect

Dover Street Market in London (1:64 scale)

(Continued from the previous post “Building Blocks for Adults — Why I am impressed by Urbacraft (Part 1)”)

Urbacraft is a company who develops building blocks for “the city crafting system”. In other words, Urbacraft is like Lego for adults.

Urbacraft’s business model is to regularly offer a kit of building blocks for famous architecture such as Dover Street Market in London (picture above). Many of those who love architecture would also love to construct miniatures buildings at home so Urbacraft expects such architecture lovers to subscribe to their kits of world’s architecture. Urbacraft already released some kits for world’s architecture (check out their e-commerce page).

Lego already has some sets for architecture such as Louvre Museum. But Urbacraft’s blocks are so simple that these are only of two types of blocks — the wall block and the floor block. In other words, LEGO is based upon traditional masonry structure while Urbacraft uses modern architectural language. “This structure allows to create buildings in very light weight,” said Ayssar, Co-founder of Urbacraft. “More importantly, this simple, light-weight structure allows our buildings to be very scalable. In a make-a-thon event in Beirut, one of the biggest buildings a participant built was as high as an adult.”

Urbacraft’s make-a-thon in Beirut, Lebanon

Miniature Kit is a “sizable market”

Building blocks are widely perceived a toy for kids. However, sophisticated models are no longer just for young kids.

Terada Mokei, a Japanese producer of 1/100 Architectural Model Accessories Series, has shown there is a sizable interest in miniature models.

According to Design Bureau, “The 1:100 (standard architectural model) scale Architectural Model Accessories Series was initially aimed at architects for use in their building models. Terada soon realized there was an equally sizeable interest in his mini paper people from art and design lovers worldwide.

Terada Mokei has released 63 models since its foundation in 2011 and more to be scheduled as customers are waiting for more models.

1/100 Architectural Model Accessories Series by Terada Mokei (Photos by Kenji MASUNAGA)

Scalable, flexible and inter-operable

To make the platform more scalable and flexible, Urbacraft reduced weight of the blocks with his Urbs V.2 blocks (below). According to Ayssar, the V.2 blocks are 50% lighter so that the new blocks can support even bigger architecture.

Through this process, he also found out that the new structure can give more connections, especially with other blocks such as Lego and littleBits, a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks for creating inventions large and small.

According to Wikipedia, “littleBits is a New York City-based startup that makes an open source library of modular electronics (open-source electronics), which snap together with small magnets for prototyping and learning.

Right now, Ayssar is working on Urbs V.3, which is inter-operable with these modular parts. And he plans to show the first version of the part that interconnects Urbacraft’s blocks with littleBits’ in a workshop held at littleBits’ Store in SOHO, New York, on this coming Sunday, December 13th.

Urbacraft’s inter-operable blocks with littleBits’ would create unexpected applications of the modular electronics. It will be great to see people create new cities that work with motors and light up.

New Urbacraft’s prototype that natively supports littleBits modules

3D Printing differs from 3D Design

One of Ayssar’s challenges is to prototype new building blocks. “Prototyping with 3D printers is quite different from designing new blocks on CAD software. I borrowed a 3D printer and tried several times, but I never had enough quality to test inter-operability with other modular blocks”, said Ayssar.

There are tens of quality issues 3D printed materials can have. Here are some typical examples of issues, according to Simplify3D’s Print Quality Troubleshooting Guide.

In concept, 3D printing enables to create whatever design specifies. However, it is not so easy as traditional paper printing yet, so you should deal with these issues until these issues are solved in several years.

Simplify3D’s Print Quality Troubleshooting Guide shows some example of 3D-printing issues

FabFoundry fills gaps

We, FabFoundry, help solve these issues for designers and startups. Our value proposition to entrepreneurial makers is to help them start projects, prototype ideas, connect to communities, form a startup and grow their companies. So, it was natural we work with Urbacraft, a startup of a designer husband and a curator wife. “Thanks to FabFoundry’s moral and technical support with 3D printing, we were able to iterate the R&D process extremely fast — doing in days what would otherwise have taken months — and develop a really powerful new product design”, said Ayssar.

Urbacraft and FabFoundry plan to co-host a make-a-thon on January 9th, with an introduction of the new building blocks (Urbs V.3). We are working hard to help Urbacraft prototype new building blocks, invite influencers and thought-leaders in this innovative industry, and make next steps to move forward. So please mark your calendar now and sign up with the link below.

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