In Italy, an old man printed in 3D watches you work and everything increases tenfold

10% more productivity thanks to this figurine witnessing your efforts. © TheFabLab

A 3D figurine that improves your productivity is the off-the-wall idea from the Milanese fablab TheFabLab, which has become a genuine nationwide phenomenon in Italy. A true Christmas story for 3D printing. Because the statuette that has been selling by the hundreds approaching Christmas has a nice story. In the north east of Italy and specifically the region of Bologna, the “Umarell’ represents this popular figure of an old man, bending slightly forward, hands clasped behind his back with a gauging gaze, observing construction sites. And would increase the productivity of the workers being observed. Turned into a 14cm high 3D figurine, the materialized figure has become a commercial success for the local fablab.

The box containing the Umarell shows its color: “The most difficult thing to do is work hard when no one is watching you! Increase your productivity with your personal Umarell. Place it on your desk and let him watch over you.” It only took one post on Facebook then an article that went viral from the Dailybest magazine, “The Umarell watching you work is the ultimate Christmas present,” for the information to spread in the national media and sales to take off. In order to face the unexpected demand, the Milanese fablab team went from 4 to 20 3D printers and worked late hours in the “Umarellificio”, the factory improvised to provide for orders (€18 per figurine).

The Umarellificio, factory for mass-produced Umarells. © TheFabLab

Even though the general public discovered the project at the end of November, the miniature Umarell was imagined in spring by its designer Bernardo Gamucci. When he was working on a project for an architect firm and preparing 3D models of buildings, he combined them with 3D printed figurines to scale. His office gradually filled up with figurines that seemed to watch him. Bernardo Gamucci then asked himself to what point his productivity would be improved if someone watched him work all day. From this question arose the analogy with the Umarells spending their days observing the work in progress at construction sites—and who, it is said, had a positive effect on productivity.

Attentive anti-procrastination observer. © TheFabLab

Beyond the popular figure of the Umarell, theorized by the blogger writer Danilo Masotti, the success story of the Milanese 3D printed figurine invites you to rethink the history of the design production chain, according to one of the co-founders of TheFabLab. In an article published in the Italian version of Wired, Massimo Temporelli wrote: “This is our history, where ideas, rapid prototyping, 3D printing but especially human beings ready to react rapidly to an unexpected situation were the protagonists of an incredible adventure that no Umarell would dare criticize.”

The 3D Umarell on TheFabLab website

Makery newsletter

Biweekly, all the labs news you need to know.