Depending on your income level, your furniture could either be some of the cheapest objects in your home, or some of the most expensive. Even though it all pretty much does the same thing — keeping you and your stuff off of the floor — the price difference between IKEA and designer furniture is jaw dropping. But in the very near future, furniture designers aren’t just going to be competing with each other, but also with 3D printers, and thankfully for us, 3D printers don’t have their own markups. So before you spend $10,000 on that modern, minimalist dining room set, consider what will be available from 3D printers in the next couple of years.
Dirk Vander Kooij’s Printed Furniture from Recycled Materials
We’ve covered this before, but it bears repeating. Dutch student Dirk Vander Kooij found inspiration in a 3D printer, so he sought out a Chinese Furoc manufacturing robot and programmed it to print single-piece furniture from recycled plastics. In his tour of Europe he’s been showing the machine printing beautiful, functional chairs in only three hours, and it’s won him the Dutch Design Award and DMY Award Berlin. His “Endless” rocking chair took 54 prototypes to get right, but each one was recycled right back through the printer. That piece goes for about $1000, so it’s not something I could afford, but considering it’s the first of its kind and it’s recycled, that’s chump change to a collector.
Gaudi Stool and Chair
Dutch designer Bram Geenen played on the work of Antoni Gaudi to create these 3D printed pieces. Gaudi designed churches, and his method was inspired by hanging chains, which lead him to flip that structure, in turn creating the strongest shape to construct his churches with. Working with Freedom of Creation, Geenen used a script to add strength to the seats. “First the distribution of forces across the surface of the chair. Secondly the direction of forces defined the direction of the ribs. Finally the amount of force specified the height of a rib.”
Weisshaar and Kram Force-Driven Structures
Geenen isn’t the only one using software to impart 3D printed furniture with extra strength, though. Designers Weisshaar and Kram created a software called MULTITHREAD that appropriately sizes and shapes joints for optimized structural integrity, and it also colors them according to the force that’s being exerted on them. This is rather similar to Purdue’s Ondrej Stava’s software that analyzes digital objects and adjusts their makeup to make them stronger for 3D printing. Additionally, the joints are separate from the arms, making them easier to produce with smaller printers, which reminds me of the program called Chopper designed at Princeton by Linjie Luo to cut up larger objects like furniture into smaller, more printable pieces as shown in this video:
Currently, since it’s so new, printed furniture is still rather expensive and/or experimental. Give it some time. For now, I’ll continue to source my furniture from thrift stores, but I know that that will be changing soon, when I can design my own chairs, and some software will ensure that they’re safe to sit in before I press print.