By Marie Chan, CID, ASID, GREEN AP
I’ve been interested in 3D printing for interior design applications for a few years – since it’s been getting into the news a lot lately, I decided to do more research onto the subject. 3D printing has been around since the 1980’s and refers to the creation of a three dimensional object based on computer modeling software. It’s considered an additive manufacturing process since it requires the application of numerous layers of material to produce the resulting product. 3D printing is finally getting into the mainstream as cost of production has dropped dramatically in recent years. Most people run across products of 3D printing in home accessories or jewelry.
Now, 3D printing is finding applications in industries as diverse as aerospace, architecture, engineering, medicine and even food. So some day, just like in Star Trek, you may be able ask your ‘replicator’ to conjure up a gourmet dinner out of thin air!!
3D printing can be done in a variety of ways. Extrusion is a very efficient 3D printing technique that generates little waste as the scraps can be reused in the manufacturing process. Dutch furniture designer Dirk Vander Kooij uses post-consumer refrigerator scraps to make his line of Endless Chairs. Here’s a short video on the making of his chair.
It’s easy to manufacture variations of a product by changing the software with 3D printing. A couple versions of the Endless Chair are shown below.
Another approach to 3D printing is to create a product from powdered plastic, metal, ceramic or glass through a process called Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS for short. This method uses computer software to generate cross sections of an object thousandths of an inch thick, then a high powered laser selectively melts the powder to form the object layer by layer till the job is done.
The Gaudi Chair is a great example of how you can create very intricate shapes using this method of 3D printing. The chair’s structural support is based on the great architect Antoni Gaudi’s principle for building the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. Made with a carbon fiber skin, the chair is strong but lightweight.
Ultraviolet light can also be used to create a 3D form. A vat of photo sensitive resin is exposed to an ultra violet laser that traces a cross section of the product on the top of the liquid. The UV light cures and hardens the resin on contact. Here’s an interesting video on a lighting fixture being designed and made with this method.
For less tech and more fun, here’s some true haute couture made with 3D printing. This form fitting dress for burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese was created from a 3D model of her body. Printed in 3D from powdered nylon, the gown was made in 17 sections with 3,000 articulated joints so the hard nylon ‘fabric’ can drape around Dita’s body. This hi tech garment was a collaboration between a NY architect and a LA fashion designer whose clients include Lady Gaga, Madonna & Fergie.