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Photo: Studio Milz

A Perfect Fit

Joyn Machine

Whether it is a seat, a garden bench, or a towering pavilion, you won’t need craftsmanship or a diploma to build your own. With their nimble Joyn Machine, the Berlin-based Studio Milz invites everyone to realise their architectural dreams. The idea behind it is simple: their computer-controlled milling machine transforms standard slats from the DIY hardware store into a 3-D construction kit. One can quickly assemble the finished parts without tools: just slot them together to create your own stool, bench, or entire house.

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Photo: Studio Milz

The Right Framework

Simon Deeg and Andreas Picker have already built plenty of interesting machines. Their illustration robots, wind-driven clocks, and experimental sowing machines inspire creative interactions with technology. Studio Milz places special emphasis on connecting digital and analogue elements and their Joyn Machine is a perfect example of this approach. Hand-operated but digitally controlled; it combines physical materials and data, high-tech and low-tech.

Deeg explains that “the original idea dates all the way back to college. Back then, we used a lot of regular, store-bought wooden panels. And since we also worked with a lot of digital tools, we wanted to combine the two. A machine takes certain manual tasks off our hands and provides a clear framework. It allows us to build simple bar frame designs such as this pavilion as well as furniture such as seats and benches. So, anything from small, everyday objects to commercial buildings and even bridges.”

No Need for Screws or Nails

The Joyn Machine handles all manufacturing steps, from the initial model to the individual wooden parts. The software lets users design their own 3-D model that can be made with the mobile milling machine. A small screen takes us through the simple step-by-step process: insert slat, mill, turn, and remove the finished part.

The best thing about it all? The software’s clever calculations make nails and glue largely unnecessary. All that’s left to do is assemble the kit by hand and enjoy the rock-solid results. At 100kg, the CNC mill is also relatively lightweight and easily wheeled to its next use.

Carpenter Today, Architect Tomorrow

The Futurium Lab shows several finished and usable examples, created by Studio Milz together with Architect Patrick Bedarf and Industrial Designer Dustin Jessen. All the furniture on display can be made by the visitors themselves. According to Bedarf, the Joyn Machine allows “anyone to become creative”, and Jessen adds that it “works just like a 3-D printer. You don’t need to be a trained carpenter to create fairly complicated connections and constructions.”

So, don’t worry if you don’t have any prior experience in woodworking, design, architecture, or structural engineering. You will do just fine with Joyn Machine if you can use a simple smartphone app. The attached tablet even shows a live video of what goes on inside the machine.

Construction Becomes Child’s Play

Collaboration was one of the main ideas behind the project: with Joyn Machine, Studio Milz wanted to let people be creative and start straight away. Here, they can create their own design or pick one of the tried-and-tested suggestions from an online catalogue. To provide an idea of what’s possible with this technique, the team built an entire pavilion. “While there are seats and tables in the lower level, we also wanted to highlight the architectural potential.

With Joyn Machine, we can scale up, create a roof, and build a shelter or retreat”, states Bedarf. “We wanted to showcase the impressive spectrum of designs that can be realised with even this limited setup.” Thanks to their airy construction, these pieces are not only easy to make, but also very light. To get a better idea of what’s possible with this machine, we recommend one of the Futurium workshops.

Reinventing an Old Material

Although Studio Milz plans to add more functions to Joyn Machine, they won’t change their raw material. Deeg is an avowed fan of wood. “It’s simply great fun to work with.” Jessen adds, “Wood offers some major advantages. You can use a wide variety of different types and the slot-style connections introduce a huge amount of variety and versatility. Considering the scarcity of resources and the environmental impact of reinforced concrete, wood is also a good, sustainable alternative in architecture.”

At the same time, wood is enjoying a strong revival thanks to the flexibility of modern manufacturing methods like Joyn Machine. It facilitates so-called mass-customisation where each individual part is manufactured to unique specifications. “This pavilion, for example, consists of around 250 parts, and only 10 percent of them are similar or the same. So, every single part is different”, says Deeg. “And we would only need the digital model to recreate this pavilion in Tokyo, London, or Los Angeles. Maybe with a few changes that could flow back into the design and database.”

Think Big, Build Small

What Studio Milz cares about most is creative human-machine collaboration. While this may not always yield perfect, predictable results, it is something the team embraces. “Digital manufacturing often yields perfect visions of perfect worlds. But we all know that life is not perfect, linear, or predictable”, states Bedarf. And Jessen underscores that “designers always need to remember that they are designing something for other human beings. The technology behind it, with all its potential, should never take centre stage.”

Studio Milz wants to focus on opening and democratising design and architecture. “The future is always ‘created’. We can play an active part in shaping this future.”