Bulleit Brought a 3D-Printed Bar to Tribeca Film Festival

Complete with a robotic bartender

Bulleit and design firm Machine Histories brought a massive 3D-printed bar to its pop-up bar and screening room in New York.
All photos courtesy of Taylor Strategy

What pairs well with a 3D-printed cocktail lounge? A 3D-printing robotic bartender.

For its second year sponsoring Tribeca Film Festival, Bulleit and design firm Machine Histories brought a massive 3D-printed bar to its pop-up bar and screening room in New York.

At Studio 525 in Manhattan, Bulleit’s 3D-printed bar became the anchor destination for the second year of sponsoring the festival, where attendees of films like “Crown Vic,” “Plus One” and “In Living Color” arrived for after-screening parties. Bulleit also sponsored the New York Shorts Film series, which included 63 films from the U.S. and elsewhere.

Sophie Kelly, svp of whiskey at Diageo North America, said the team wanted a combination of “entertainment, impact and functionality.” Initially, they looked at creating a design that resembled the style of the French designer Philippe Starck.

“I love the way the digital world describes minimal viable product,” Kelly said. “And the notion of going through an iterative creative process to get to what is the right thing. I think with [Machine Histories] that’s what we did. We started at points, we tested the limits, we extended it.”

According to Machine Histories co-founder Jason Pilarski, the team balanced the number of parts they could print with the amount of space provided by the venue. That led to printing 3,000 parts over the course of more than 2,000 hours. However, the bar has to be assembled in sections each time. (Before going to Tribeca, the bar visited Oakland, Calif., and Austin.)

At its core, the design is a series of line work that started with a zig-zag crosshatch design before it was given dimension. Pilarski said that to him, it almost feels like traditional steelwork that’s both “architectural and atypical.”

“In the context of the bar, the frontier runs up against an edge, and beyond the edge, it’s chaos,” he said. “And so for us, we were very much trying to find out where that would be before it starts to disintegrate—before it’s no longer a bar. How far could we push that and make it happen and still be on the edge, but still have some form, some snap?”

The printing happened through a process called selective laser sintering to create nylon pieces from a laser and a bed of powder. In order to make it structurally dependable, the nylon used was glass-filled similar to a fiberglass. That’s different than traditionally 3D-printed parts, which uses fused deposition modeling that draws layer by layer—but at any point, it can snap.

The entire printing process took about a month using a number of machines making all of the parts. Each build took well over a day, with as many as 12 machines running at some times. However, it wasn’t the printing that worried them most, but the labor that it took to put it all together.

In another room, a robotic arm was busy 3D-printing bourbon cocktails, inserting tiny beads of lemon oil into a shot glass that, over the course of about a minute, spelled out NYC or created a DNA-like double helix. The technology was created by a startup called Print A Drink, founded by Phillip Hornung and Benjamin Greimel as a university project to better understand robot arms.

The designers were created with a CAD software, which allowed the team to either manually draw or script the 3D-printed forms so that they properly float within a drink without falling apart or clumping too closely together. For example, for the DNA structure, the designers designated how far apart each 3D-printed dot should be before translating it into a robot language. From there, Print A Drink simulated it within the software before writing the file to run on the robot.

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