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Furniture of the Future: 3D Printing – Part Two

3D Printing and Furniture: Freedom of Design

The Batoidea 3D printed chair and stool are made in Belgium. It is part of a limited edition collection. Both pieces were created from 3D printed sand molds, the exact same method used to produce the internal core of the Ferrari engine. It took a total of five sand mold parts, all manufactured by Voxeljet’s service center in Augsburg. The thin-walled aluminum cast structures were then painted using the same technique Ferrari uses to paint the bodywork of its supercars.

The Rio collection is made in London. It consists of backrest chairs and a side table that combine 3D printed parts with traditional furniture materials, such as wood and glass. The lattice structure was designed entirely by a computer algorithm, sustaining weight while optimizing the material used. This resulted in a unique and gorgeous design that’s manufactured either with resin or polyamide powder.

The Multithread uses 3D printed joints to make tables, shelves, and desks. The designers are Swedish and German. The lattice structures supporting the flat surfaces of the furniture were optimized by custom software that “analyzes, modifies, and paints” the joints according to the forces to which they’re submitted. The joints were digitally designed and 3D printed using selective laser melting (SLM). After printing, the parts were hand polished and the final structure was assembled.

The One_Shot stool is a functional stool by a French designer. It has a dynamic structure that allows it to be folded, just like an umbrella, for transportation or storage. The collapsing movement is fluid, making use of a twisting motion and gravity. The entire piece, including all moving parts and hinges, are 3D printed together using selective laser sintering (SLS).

Bits and Parts from the Netherlands have created some chair models. All of them can be downloaded for free and be printed by anyone with a 3D printer. Each unit is assembled like a 3D puzzle to form the final piece of furniture. The entire project is a constant work in progress, where makers around the globe can join ranks and enhance the designs.

Print Your City! is an ongoing research project aimed at recycling household plastic waste and using it to 3D print public city furniture. It started in Amsterdam as a test run. The first piece of furniture was a custom public bench weighing around 15 kg. It was equivalent to the total plastic waste produced by two Amsterdamers per year.

Most of the furniture discussed here was made by studios and designers who wanted to explore the production capabilities of 3D printing.

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Furniture of the Future: 3D Printing – Part One

Great Furniture Ideas That are 3D Printed

3D printing has made inroads into the furniture industry. While most furniture is still mass-produced using traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printing has enabled designers to play with their imagination and innovate as much as they want. The resulting outcomes brought to the market are no less fabulous, interesting, unique and some can be very pricey.

3D printing may not be the norm for furniture. But it is a great tool for producing high-end furniture, often developed by famous designers who want to explore new shapes and ideas. However, quantities are limited and certainly not mass-produced. Geometries are complex and designs can be extraordinary which are difficult to produce with molds.

Here are some very interesting designs from different parts of the world.

There’s the Nagami Chair Collection from Spain. It consisted of four 3D printed chairs designed by different architects and designers. All were created using FDM 3D printers and were introduced during the Milan Design Week in 2018. Two of them were inspired by sea life, one looking like a coral. Another chair consists of three parts, creating the effect of its parts peeling off of an invisible joint. One is a blue chair which clearly represents the lines from FDM printing layers.

The Ocke Series is from Germany. It’s a set of 3D printed furniture consisting of a chair and sofa printed using FDM 3D printers with large print volumes and precision. People could easily recognize that the chair and the sofa were designed specifically for 3D printing. The makers can also design furniture without using any support material. This was achieved by positioning the poles – the main structural elements of the pieces – at low angles.

The Sofa So Good lounger was created using 3D System’s ProX 950, an industrial, large-volume SLA 3D printer. American-made, the lounger features an incredible complex mesh design, resembling a metal-coated spider web. It was printed with as little material as possible while still maintaining structural strength. It’s single print design used only 2.5 liters of resin, which translates to 6,000 layers and able to support a maximum weight of 100 kilograms.

Most of the furniture discussed here was made by studios and designers who wanted to explore the production capabilities of 3D printing.

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Endangered Coral Reefs: Help from 3D Printing

Preserving the Marine Ecosystem

The value of coral reefs cannot be overestimated. They support a variety of human needs – food, livelihood, coastal protection, not to mention tourism and medicine – and the thriving of fish populations and other marine life, their degradation and loss will negatively impact a wider ecosystem. Man-made destruction as well as global warming can erase them forever. So preservation and salvaging are too important to ignore.

3D Printed Corals

One primary use of coral reefs is in the marine biofuels. Hence, scientists and researchers are looking into various solutions to reinvigorate the ecosystem. 3D replacement reefs are a promising means. Cambridge University intends to develop an artificial coral structure for microalgae to grow on, so it can be harvested to create biofuel. Microalgae is an energy-rich biofuel. Certain types can live in a symbiotic relationship with corals. The corals provide a surface for the microalgae to grow, and in return, the algae produce food for the coral.

At the Cambridge lab, researchers are looking for methods to copy and mimic corals’ high efficiency at collecting and using light. They developed an artificial coral tissue and skeleton with a combination of polymer gels and hydrogels doped with cellulose nanomaterials to mimic the optical properties of living corals. The incredibly energy-rich microalgae called Marinichlorella kaistiae produces fatty acids. The algae grow on Pocilloporidae corals, so the team 3D-scanned these corals in order to develop a blueprint for the 3D-printed coral forms. However, the microalgae can die in the process of transferring them from their host culture onto the artificial corals. But through a unique bioprinting technique, the researchers were able to plant the algae on the surface of the new fake coral during the manufacturing process itself.

When compared to the natural coral, the new coral structures allow the microalgae to grow 100 times faster, and in a denser mat, than in any other area where they have been cultivated, both in the lab and the sea.

While it is obvious that the process of additive manufacturing isn’t the best system for mass production of coral reefs, the Cambridge team of researchers has no other option for producing its artificial coral. Nonetheless, they’re hopeful that new advances in additive manufacturing will help them further their production process goals in the future.
Their research is published in Nature Communications.

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Metal 3D Printing Benefiting Aeronautics

A Partnership That Saves Time and Cost

In February 2020, a US aeronautics company – GA-ASI – successfully performed its first test flight of a metal 3D printed part onboard its remotely piloted aircraft platform. This endeavor was supported by AddWorks, a company that pioneered metal additive manufacturing to full production.

GA-ASI or General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc is a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, electro-optic and related mission systems. GA-ASI already has significant experience with polymer-based 3D printing, and has recently made strides in developing its metal additive manufacturing process. The company has identified a series of parts and groups of applications with potentially favorable business outcomes. The company partnered with AddWorks in 2019 to support the acceleration of metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing while also strengthening the qualification of both its products and processes.

AddWorks provides a step by step consultation service for adopting 3D printing, which begins with defining the business case, building a team, and identifying funding opportunities. It has helped Honda R&D Japan, Korea Aerospace Industries Association and America’s Triumph Group in accelerating their adoption of metal additive manufacturing. The objective of the partnership for GA-ASI was to have its first metal 3D printed part take flight within a short time span (eight months) and it achieved its goal.

Combining the deep domain expertise of metal additive manufacturing and best practices from both GA-ASI and Addworks allowed these companies to move quickly and work within the timelines set. The additive manufactured component offers significant reductions in weight and cost when compared to conventional manufacturing models.

The AddWorks team has become trusted advisors to GA-ASI and will continue providing consultancy and expert advice as it moves to further scale metal additive manufacturing across its business. It has been important for GA-ASI to remain at the leading edge of manufacturing technologies for their products and customers. This only means that partnerships like that of GA-ASI and Addworks help to accelerate the maturation of metal Additive Manufacturing strategy and to inform of the best approach to a much wider application space.

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The Best of 3D Printing and Traditional Casting

Making A Difference in Metal 3D Printing

We know that every manufacturing process, whether it is traditional casting or direct 3D metal printing, has its limitations. Traditional casting has challenges – the high tooling cost and long lead time. On the other hand, direct 3D metal printing is limited by material compatibility. Direct 3D metal printing has the ability to create parts quickly, speeding up prototyping and development cycles. But the choice of materials is limited. If the preferred material is not available, engineers must design parts in alternative materials and therefore cannot use these parts for the final production process. Development time now increases. Likewise, the long process of getting new materials approved negates the main advantage of obtaining parts quickly.

The challenge has been met by Enable Manufacturing, a UK-based metal 3D printing service provider. It has announced that it is now able to produce metal parts with its additive casting process in more than 130 metals. Its casting process uses a combination of 3D printed molds and traditional casting means to create metal parts. Enable aims to offer an expansive material selection for customers, so that they are able to produce their metal parts in the desired material.

What then are the benefits of the combination? As mentioned, it removes the limitation and high cost of tooling as molds are made by means of additive manufacturing. It expands the metal options for engineers, providing a service for different types of metal parts for a variety of applications using the additive casting process. Complex metal parts of any size can be manufactured cost effectively.

To demonstrate, Enable can produce parts using AISI 420 stainless steel, which is a higher fatigue strength alternative to AISI 316L stainless steel. Although parts can be 3D printed with AISI 316L, some applications in aerospace and heavy industry require a higher fatigue strength offered by the likes of AISI 420, however, the latter is not available for 3D printing, but can be used in casting processes.

3D printing in mold making for casting manufacturing processes has been employed by a number of companies. TRUMPF, a German machine tool manufacturer, has highlighted the value of 3D printing in complex mold making. 3D Systems, Voxeljet, and Soliscape have also released 3D printers specifically for casting and molding applications.

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