A Vending Machine Is Spitting Out 2,000 3D-Printed Roosters on the Greenway

It's a celebration of the Year of the Rooster in Chinatown Park.

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Photo via New American Public Art.

The Year of the Plastic Rooster is upon us.

To kick off the Chinese New Year, the Rose Kennedy Greenway announced today it’s debuting an art exhibit-slash-vending machine that will, they say, spit out more than 2,000 3D-printed plastic roosters, day and night, for the next year.

Dreamed up by artist Chris Templeman of Somerville’s Artisans Asylum and dubbed Make and Take, it’s made up of an eight feet tall, see-through polycarbonate case with a printer inside. The machine melts and forms plastic thread into the computer-programmed shape (the design comes from a 3D scan of a Chinese porcelain figurine from the Museum of Fine Arts). And when the birds are finished printing, they pop out the bottom for lucky passersby to take home.

It’s been whirring away in Chinatown Park for about a week now, dispensing palm-size birds about every 3-4 hours. If you want one of your own, you’ll have to get there at just the right time, before someone else snatches it.

According to the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Rooster begins on Saturday.

Make and Take provides a wonderful opportunity to pair old with new to engage The Greenway’s public art audience with a classic artform reimagined with today’s technology,” says Greenway Conservancy Public Art Curator Lucas Cowan, in a statement. “I’m delighted to commission a local artist from the ‘maker’ community to showcase art, technology, and Chinese culture.”

If you visit the artwork, Templeman hopes you’ll take a moment to think about “the democratization of manufacturing,” according to a description on the Greenway’s website.

The work speaks to the democratization of manufacturing. With technologies like the 3D printer used for Make and Take, individuals can now produce objects once made exclusively by wealthy enterprises. Make and Take shines a light on how accessible technologies make it possible for everyone to design and realize their ideas with significantly fewer resources. In encountering Make and Take, the public is invited to view a marvel of modern technology: the ability to ‘print’ physical objects. The 3D printer, while remaining to be a curiosity, can be purchased for the cost of a laptop. It is on its way to democratizing manufacturing and fabrication just as the computer and the Internet have democratized information. 

And n addition to being pretty cool, they say the year-round project is an unprecedented use of the emerging 3D-printing technology, made possible by the weather-resistant shell produced by Somerville’s New American Public Art, which they hope will keep it going nonstop all year.

“The duration of operation as well as the number of prints being attempted is quite a challenge and, to our knowledge, has never been attempted before,” the Greenway says in a release. “The 3D printer hardware and software utilized in the piece have been modified to endure the year-long installation in the typically unpredictable New England climate.”

Check it out!