3D printing has captured the imagination. Here are some ways that 3D print technology can be applied to home decor and the 21st century home.
Have you ever come across an idea or piece of technology that makes you think: “Ok I get it. We’re in the future now”? Over the past couple years, every time I heard someone mention anything about 3D printing, I felt a slight confused panic about how objects can be seemingly made out of thin air and had flashes of The Jetsons’ car flying overhead, which I acknowledge is a completely dated reference.
As I’ve started to read up a bit more about 3D printing, the sense of panic that I initially felt has transformed into an excitement and wonder about what this technology can help us create, especially in terms of home design. The range and scale of products being made by this manufacturing process is growing at what seems like a daily rate and I suspect that 3D printers are still in their early infancy. Kind of like what cell phones were in the 80’s compared to now.
So what exactly is 3D printing?
Before getting into some examples of 3D printed items for the home, here’s some info on how this technology works. 3D printing, or more formally known as additive manufacturing, is the creation of a three-dimensional solid object from a virtual design. A virtual design is prepared into a digital file, which is then uploaded into a 3D printer.
With the digital information it needs, the 3D printer reads the file and starts to bring the design to form by applying thin layers of material (plastic, nylon, metal, etc.) on top of each other until the desired object is complete.
With uses in all sorts of industries that include biotechnology, aerospace, and architecture, 3D printing is predicted to hail in the next industrial revolution because it makes production so much faster, cheaper, and more customizable. It also creates a lot less waste than traditional manufacturing techniques. Along with this, more affordable 3D printers are becoming available to allow for at home, hobbyist use.
What’s especially exciting for art and décor enthusiasts is that 3D printing makes it easier for designers to transform their imaginative ideas into real life objects. From modern accessories for the home, to furniture, to even entire houses, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Just taking a quick search on Etsy will show you the vast amount of 3D printed nick knacks and home décor items being made by expert crafters and designers. Because no molds are needed in the 3D printing layering process, incredibly intricate items like geometric animal heads and conceptual vases can more affordably be made to order and don’t have the requirements of mass production.
This dynamic spiral vase found on Etsty showcases how 3D printing can create works of modern art
Home 3D printers are also opening up interior décor possibilities by allowing people to create everything from tableware, to serving trays, to standing lamps from the comfort of home. Companies that sell 3D printers like Cubify also offer downloads of pre-made 3D printable digital designs that you can upload into your 3D printer and print off on demand.
Imagine planning a dinner party and wanting to spice up your table décor with a new serving dish and being able to print one off right from home – no extra trips to the store required. This technology allows you to do just that.
3D printing is also helping furniture designers create dynamic and sculptural pieces out of materials like plastic, stainless steel, and even wood. One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing for furniture designers is that it makes prototype production easier. Because this technology allows for one-off manufacturing, it lets designers test out different ideas and make refinements before going into larger scale production. This means a designer can more efficiently make changes to their product until they get it just right.
That’s not all, because 3D printing enables highly detailed designs to be constructed quickly with fewer production costs, it’s easier to transform wild and fantastical sketches into real life pieces of furniture. This translates into enhanced creative development and more inventive interior décor options.
Take a look at this intricate 3D printed aluminum chair by the Dutch designer Joris Laarman. It showcases this emerging technology’s ability to combine structure with intersecting lines.
Another example of how 3D printing is making manufacturing more and more accessible for everyone is how designers like Jaarman are making their blueprints available to the public; anyone with a suitable 3D printer can print off their designs. To make it easier for smaller printers to construct, many pieces of furniture are being designed like puzzles: you print off smaller individual pieces that fit together just like a 3D puzzle.
While the ability to print off home accessories and furniture is very impressive, 3D printing is also starting to be used to make entire homes, which I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
Just this past January in eastern China, a five-story tall apartment building, and 11,840 square foot mansion were constructed using 3D printing technology by the company Winsun.
A massive 3D printer measuring 21 feet wide by 32 feet tall made these habitable structures, complete with decorative elements. Using a mixture of materials that includes glass fibre, cement, and recycled construction waste, Winsun printed out large sections of the buildings and then assembled them together on site. Steel reinforcements and insulation were also added after printing to meet local building codes.
It’s reported that by using 3D printing technology to manufacture these buildings, production time was cut by up to 70 percent and construction waste was cut by up to 60 percent. Because of it’s ability to save time and money for developers, this technology has real potential to become mainstream and revolutionize the home building industry as a whole. We could be looking at the future of home construction right here.
The above examples – even the five-story apartment block – just scratch the surface of 3D printing’s manufacturing potential. Because this technology can quickly transform designs from digital files into functional (and stylish) objects, imaginative ideas can easily become a reality.
From making personalized napkin rings to full sized homes, 3D printing is starting to make an impact and it will be fascinating to see where it goes next. Who knows, maybe we’ll soon see a 3D printed Jetsons car.