ArchiExpo e-Magazine - #11 - Digging Into the 3-D Printing Revolution - ArchiExpo e-Magazine

Digging Into the 3-D Printing Revolution

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.

Hot Topic
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-Novo ArchiExpo Batimat 2015
Hot Topic
"The only way I could access rapid prototyping at the time in South Africa"


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.

Hot Topic
You should always think of the material in its printed state because the raw material often has different, suboptimal characteristics

/ /

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....

Postwar Modernism in the United States was not a female friendly movement. There was little room for women atop the pedestals in architecture, fine art, and...


Polish born, Denmark-based textile designer Martyna Barbara Golik recently developed a collection of textile objects that strive to translate the experience of...

  • Join our 155,000 subscribers

  • /

    “The story of the bubble.” Dutch designer and artist Nienke Sybrandy links present to future and temporal to enduring through her work with soap and bubbles. Having launched Studio Sybrandy in 2006, Sybrandy plays with textile and object motifs, such as printing bubbles onto fabric and blowing bubbles onto ceramics.

    Her collection of tableware “Surfactants” launched in 2014 with Jo Sijen, former head of the ceramic department at the Arts Academy in Maastricht, exemplifies her bubble-blowing technique. Sijen develops the molds for the ceramic supports and she blows colorful bubbles onto the ceramic shapes, adding artful designs. Upon completing a residency at Sundaymorning@ekwc in July 2015, Sybrandy spoke to ArchiExpo about the project.

    ArchiExpo: Where did the technique for painting with soap bubbles initiate? 

    Nienke Sybrandy: When I first said I wanted to paint with soap bubbles, everyone said, “Impossible.” But Jo Sijen said, “Let’s try.” It was a challenge because color pigments are quite heavy and oily, so I had to find a technique to make the different colored bubbles.

    ArchiExpo: Can you talk tools and materials? 

    Sybrandy: The tableware is made from porcelain. At our residency, we had access to a fab lab so we could make our own tools for blowing bubbles by 3-D printing them [More on Skills for 3-D Printing]. When we started the project a year ago, our tools came from toy shops. In addition to the table wears, we started making tiles and tableaux.

    “We could make our own tools for blowing bubbles by 3-D printing them.”

    ArchiExpo: Do you prefer working with fabrics or with solid supports? 

    Sybrandy: I studied textiles, so working with fabrics feels the most familiar to me. I do a lot of weaving, for example. I have been using glow-in-the-dark yarn to put the image of the enlarged bubbles on a blanket, which makes them look like planets.

    ArchiExpo: Does your choice of material also reflect the symbolism of transience shown by your motifs? 

    Sybrandy: No, I choose the materials that will be the best quality for what they are. First I create the story, then I decide what it will be told on.

    ArchiExpo: Any advice to young designers? 

    Sybrandy: When I’m fascinated by something, I will start working to find out how it can be done. Work is the answer to the question.


    Italy’s international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings, Cersaie brings together architects and designers from around the world to peruse the...


    Tom Dixon’s speech during designjunction in Milan last April brought up the need to offer visitors the possibility of seeing and buying ready available...

    London’s various design districts brought another round of inspiring objects to view. ArchiExpo enjoyed spotting the best products and installations for...

    / / / /

    Hues reflect various finishes depending on the materials applied. Dark teal shines differently from thread on fabrics and paint on wood. Walking into the paint-splattered restaurant Pracownia by Polish designer Karina Wiciak for Wamhouse or witnessing Stellar Works’ performance of painting on ceramic tableware revives the itch for acrylics and oils. Let’s talk paint.

    Refashioning Acrylic

    Japanese-based designer Emmanuelle Moureaux entitled her 2015 installation “dance” for Italian fashion brand FURLA, comprised of colorful mobiles dangling from the ceiling. These colors revisit her 2009 “acrylic × komono” series and her Shibafu table, containing 56 slender colored acrylic sticks connected to a piece of transparent acrylic.

    Alternatively, acrylic sees new light with the Grain Chair by Yuki Yoshikawa, Japanese designer and co-founder of NANASHI products. Launched at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2015, the designer hand painted onto Japanese kalopanax wood using acrylic gouache. After a coating of gouache, he sanded down and repainted. This process was repeated several times until the result highlighted the wood’s unique, organic patterns.

    Courtesy of Yuki Yoshikawa

    Courtesy of Yuki Yoshikawa


    Paint Is Paint Is Paint

    This year Eight designers revamped  Tolix’s iconic metal Chaise A for the company’s 80th anniversary. Swiss-French designer Julie Richoz, the youngest participant, hand painted onto the metal frame. The bright palette of colors she chose brings the piece to life. Designer Julien Ceder, however, went festive with a splash of yellow paint. The deep yellow paint links to the champagne brand Veuve Cliquot’s labelling heritage; the brand began using this exact color in 1877.

    No Need to Paint, to Paint

    Studio Glithero works with sensitive chemicals to recreate colors on their vases and tiles. After treating the material, “the objects are then exposed under ultraviolet light, which develops a photogram of the specimen in intense Prussian blue,” Glithero co-founder and British designer Tim Robinson told ArchiExpo. Once the vases are rinsed in a water based solution to undergo the washing process seen in the video, they are then painted with a “light sensitive emulsion not included in the film. This emulsion is not visible to the eye and turns blue as soon as it is in contact with UV light.”


    Color up Awareness

    Vitra donated the iconic Eames Elephants to designjunction 2015’s charity project A Child’s Dream. The project supports Teddy’s Wish, a financial aid to research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Twenty-one world-renowned designers and architects painted, patterned and accessorised them for the installation, under the tag “They say ‘elephants never forget’. Nor do bereaved parents.”
    One elephant stood on a skateboard, painted like a tiger. “I had two young designers help me who were 9 & 6 years old and my dog Ella,” Terence Woodgate, from lighting brand Terence Woodgate, told ArchiExpo. Woodgate used the “kind of aerosols that kids use for graffiti.”


    Michaella Janse von Vuuren

    Michaella Janse van Vuuren is a designer and artist with a PhD in Electrical Engineering.

    Read More

    Serena Confalonieri

    Serena Confalonieri is an independent Italian designer working on interior, graphic and textile design projects.

    Read More

    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

    Read More

    Alexandra Katz

    Alexandra Katz is a Russian freelance journalist with more than 10 years of reporting experience.

    Read More

    Hilary Edesess

    Hilary Edesess is a freelance journalist based in Marseille, France. She blogs about culture, art and urban design.

    Read More

    Alex Ulam

    Alex Ulam is a freelance journalist and design critic based in New York.

    Read More

    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

    Read More

    Style Switcher

    Highlight Color:




    You can also set your own colors or background from the Admin Panel.