Biomimicry Chair Could Change Furniture as we Know It
A common complaint about 3D printing is that it is not capable of producing things in a wide range of materials. Industrial printers can currently print items from wood, metal, plastics, and… thats basically it. If you aren’t the owner of a successful manufacturing firm and you’re just an average consumer or hobbyist looking to try your hand at 3D printing, then the only available options for you come in the form of cheap, hard plastics like ABS and PLA. This would be great if you wanted to make figurines, jewelry for little girls or even handy devices, parts and gadgets. But if you wanted to print something bigger or softer, you simply couldn’t. Until now.
The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague graduate student Lilian van Daal has created a 3D printed chair out of a single recyclable material influenced by plant materials. The chair was made as an alternative to traditional furniture that is usually upholstered and glued together from many different materials, which makes it difficult to recycle.
“A lot of materials are used in normal furniture production, including several types of foam, and it’s very difficult to recycle because everything is glued together,” Van Daal told Dezeen.
Van Daal, a design student, decided to experiment with various materials and design methods to see if it would be possible to create environmentally-friendly furniture. By using 3D printing technology and mimicking plant cell structures, van Daal was able to produce the ‘Biomimicry’ chair.
Unlike most 3D printed objects, the biomimicry chair is not entirely hard. Van Daal mimicked plant cells by distributing the material differently at different parts of the chair. She decreased the density of the material in certain places and increased it in others. This enabled some sections of the chair to be soft and some to be hard – yet the entire chair was made from just one material.
“I was testing the flexibility and the stiffness you can get from one material by 3D printing various structures,” said Van Daal. “I did lots of experiments with different structures to identify the kind of properties each structure has. When you adjust the structure a little bit you immediately get a different function. In the strong parts I used as little material as possible but enough to still have the good stiffness.”
According to Dezeen, Van Daal is currently in talks with furniture companies to discuss developing the project further. Not only is her concept much more environmentally-friendly than traditional furniture, but it also saves costs associated with purchasing multiple materials and having to transport them all separately to a factory. The ability to 3D print a soft, recyclable chair is a big step both for furniture and also for 3D printing technology, as the stigma of being able to print only rock hard objects is slowly diminishing.
Shanie Phillips is a originally from the UK, but has spent many years in Singapore, the US and now Israel. In addition to writing for Inside3DP she writes for several news and innovation sites.