Industrial PMMA tubes brought to life–The Morsetto Lamps
During his master's degree in product design at ECAL, in collaboration with Italian lighting giant Foscarini, Ignacio Merino developed the Morsetto Lamps–a collection of lighting objects crafted from heat-treated PMMA (polymethylmethacrylate) tubes. PMMA is a transparent, plastic material that can be used as a replacement for glass.
A standardized industrial product–these tubes of PMMA–which are sold by the meter, were beautifully transformed by Merino, who molded them using techniques associated with glass. With these translucent ‘opal’ plastic tubes as his raw material, Merino generated a robust and portable end product, one that was far less delicate than its glass counterpart but could trap and transmit light within it in equally attractive ways.
The making of the Morsetto Lamps, witnessed in the film below, appears to have been an innovative yet straightforward process. Merino heated tubes of PMMA to achieve mouldability, before pressing them in strategic ways between boards and clamping them down. Once cooled and set, the tubes are left with wonderfully textured and sealed ends. The crimped edges are appealing, and one can’t help but see a likeness to the serrated edges of tubes and packets of all kinds that we use daily and which we are pleasantly familiar with.
For Ignacio, there was clearly an intent to play with both the familiar and unfamiliar–“personally, as a design approach, I have always considered it extremely attractive to manipulate already existing industrial elements. From subtle transformations to large deformation, one can retrieve exceptional values in the material itself” he says.
For the Morsetto lamps, his material exploration began with the manipulation of different plastic-sheets, such as polycarbonate, PMMA, and PET. The critical difference between them, apart from their visual proprieties, was their melting temperature. Polycarbonate was too low, and PET's was too high. As the size and complexity of Merino's shapes increased, it became harder to control material stability. PMMA and existing one-meter-long Opal tubes of the material offered an excellent medium, and an easy way to trap light into a closed shape.
“By heating the PMMA until 150° C, it becomes fluid and is ready to be deformed into unique pieces. It finally freezes in time and shape, keeping light caught inside it” Ignacio says of the process. Traditional glassmaking served as an inspiration, Merino said “ there is something fascinating about the way glass-makers work their material, technically so hard, primitive and ancient, but never old. The idea behind this project was to extrapolate these methods to a material which allows transportability, durability and perfect light diffusion”.
The wireless, and portable Morsetto Lamps exist as a set of 3 pieces with different patterns used to seal the pipes. Each lamp holds inside it 3 to 5 on-board LEDs (9W each). With a switcher in easy access on their bottom surface and the ability to recharge via USB, the lamps are both beautiful and convenient. Their soft, smooth forms and ease of handling also suggest a close relationship with the human body.
At this time, MORSETTO is a limited collection only available for exhibitions. New variations using Merino’s process are in progress and are expected to release soon. To learn more, follow this link to Ignacio Merino’s webpage.