Enjoy a brand new reader experience with the 11th issue of ArchiExpo e-magazine
while discovering the latest innovations in design & architecture. An Italian designer viewpoint, a South African approach and what’s important when entering the 3-D printing realm: in this issue, we explore this brand new and exciting manufacturing path.
In the realm of furniture design, it is not so much the reproduction of forms that already exist that leads to the use of 3-D printing, but rather the desire to imagine a new aesthetic and new functions.
Given today’s advances in 3-D printing technology, it is already possible to print eyes, noses and internal organs. We will send 3-D printers capable of printing other printers to Mars to build a new colony. Synthetic biological materials will be printed in the form of self-repairing tissue. Even food will be produced...
I still remember vividly the first time I came across 3D printing in 2004. It was an online video, and it blew my mind. I [designer Michaella Janse van Vuuren] enrolled in a post doctorate in medical implant design, the only way I could access rapid prototyping at the time in South Africa. I believed I needed a serious technical arsenal to be able to make my own digital fantasies real. What I found instead is that everything you need can be accessed easily on the Internet. For me, 3-D printing and digital manufacturing have broken down the walls that separated industries. I have been a jeweler, sculptor, educator, lighting, fashion and shoe designer and researcher in medical implant design.
Digital technology has the enormous potential to remove the barriers to manufacturing. In theory it no longer matters where you reside.
Consider that I live in Africa, and my home is surrounded by Bushveld. Thanks to the magic of digital manufacturing all I need to create my 3-D-printed pieces is my Internet connection, my computer and a digital tablet. I do not even own a 3-D printer.
As 3-D printing catches the world’s attention, there’s a kind of gold-rush fever that’s threatening to cheapen the potential of the technology. Anyone can download designs for free and print them at home. 3-D design software companies have spread the message that designing for manufacturing is so easy that the skills of people who make the designs become practically worthless.
This is very far from an accurate view. There are many challenges facing independent 3-D manufacturers all over the world. These include the cost of design hardware, software and the 3-D printing itself, limitations of the printing materials for end product use and the constraints of the machines. You need to have knowledge of legal issues, business and marketing skills and access to experts.
The magic ingredient to transform yourself from a pencil wielding dreamer to an indie manufacturing powerhouse is perseverance and a lot of it. Computer design software has grown out of the engineering manufacturing needs of old. The 3-D printing machines are capable of printing shapes never before possible, but the software still has to catch up when it comes to easily designing these shapes.
The power of digital manufacturing is that the design skills needed to create jewelry, medical implants or fashion is very similar. What changes is the level of expert knowledge needed to create a functional design. To design a shoe you have to partner with a shoe expert. You can make medical implants, but you have to work with an expert orthopedics surgical team.
When considering the design of a manufactured object, you also need to investigate the materials you will be printing in and what is actually possible on a particular machine. Note: “You can print anything” is a big ol’ lie. That future has still to arrive.
Once your design is finished, you can send it to be printed. What happens to the file is now out of your control. Make sure you print through someone reputable. If your file gets “out there” you cannot get it back.
Hyphae Pendant Lamp by Nervous SystemPrinting can be very expensive; designers often team up with large 3-D corporations. Print sponsorships are great but don’t get so flattered and excited that you forget to have your designs well protected and legally covered. If you live far from New York or London or any of the other cities considered as economic hubs, distance is another challenge. A trip to showcase your work and network at one of the best expos or conferences is a huge financial strain, but nothing beats meeting in person. So despite the ability to print anywhere in the world, if you are not close enough to the financial centers you are at a disadvantage.
That brings us to finances. To cover all the hardware, software, R&D, self-study, test prints, marketing and travelling you better have a very inventive plan. It is the rare designer who has 3-D print sales capable of sustaining the business. South African Richard van As’ Robohand is an open-source low-cost 3-D prosthetic that has changed lives all over the world, and as the 3-D print market increases I expect international designers like Nervous System, Francis Bitonti and Joshua Harker to have a big influence on the emerging industry. When the materials improve and become less expensive, digital manufacturing will take off and established brands will join in.
While the average Joe can have a 3-D printer in his own home and select product design drawings through open source platforms, there’s much left to understand. Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen amazes with flashy, complex geometrical outfits customized to individual body scans with a multi-material printer....
Russian broadcasting company NTV launched the reality show “Cottage Solution”. The company selects a Russian cottage house in need of a spruce, hires professional interior designers and architects and starts the camera rolling.
In an old house in Moscow suburbs, a grandmother lives with her two grandchildren of 18 and 20 years old, both students. Studio Ruetemple entitles the project “Interiors for Students” to fit the client’s current situation.
“The log house itself was built in 1980,” said Ruetemple’s founders and architects, Alexander Kudimov and Daria Butahina—husband and wife. “When we arrived, the 33-square-meter [108 square feet] room given [to us] for renovation was cold and almost uninhabited. There was a kind of hall room on the ground level, while the space on the first floor, near to the bedroom, was used for keeping some old planks.”
“Our task was to remake a two-level room where [the] brother and sister were to stay keeping the rest of the house as it was.”
The archi couple chose Canadian Maple for the parquet flooring. The interior walls and ceilings are plastered and painted white, offering a bright ambiance; while the furniture and all other elements including the staircase and their transformer furniture piece, the black cube, are made of veneered MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). The black cube has four parts that can be shifted and rolled in different ways, to convert from a closed sleeping space to various seating arrangements.
“The homeowners couldn’t see the project before completion or interfere. It’s a ‘Cottage Solution’ rule. That was most exciting because we had complete freedom to implement any ideas and fantasies we had without having to compromise.”
Playing with boundaries had its obstacles. There wasn’t a conventional way to place a staircase, according to the team. They chose to throw a table into the mix. Before reaching the stairs, there’s a table to climb.
Another hurdle was the height restriction upstairs. They decided to create a space where anyone could sit or lie down while reading and developped the hammock. The two beams over the ground floor had to be clad with plasterboard. In order to avoid damaging the plasterboard with the hammock, made with a Polyamide safety net, they designed an additional frame using Joker, the fastening system for trade equipment.
Lighting. Fond of minimalism and modern Japanese architecture, the archi couple hung E27 pendant lights by Muuto (Mattias Ståhlbom) around to illuminate the whole area.They also mounted WW LED strip light above the tables in the study room.
“This project in many ways became a springboard for our carriers. We use all these ideas implemented in the project for our commercial designs.”