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More 3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile 2024 in Milano

After 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light still shining bright enough?

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Lamps are a key element of Salone del Mobile and the Milano Design Week events. When this writer was a little kid, his grandmother, who spoke 5 languages, worked at Euroluce – the lightning segment of the Salone – presenting and selling designer lights for a Venitian lighting company. First held in 1976, Euroluce is the International Lighting Exhibition which, thanks to the more than 300 exhibitors, among the leading brands in the sector at the international level, narrates the evolution of light in the domestic space, sparking research and innovation and reflection on the design culture in this particular field. So far 3D printing has only been able to make marginal commercial breakthroughs in the design world – beyond prototyping and production tooling – and these breakthroughs remain mostly confined to the lighting segment.

The general impression is that while high-end designer furniture products for the bathroom and the living room are generating significant and growing turnover globally – a lot more innovation is needed to ensure this trend continues in the future. The same could be said of 3D printing. As Tiia Vahula, a pioneering designer in the 3D printing world, with Amsterdam-based studio Utopia Blu, put it: “Another 3D printed light is not enough. Ten years ago, when we started working in 3D printing, we thought that by this time the world of product design would be a lot further along in the adoption of these technologies.”

On the light-er side of design

Truth be told, a lot has been accomplished. The level and quality of the 3D printed lighting products during at design week – no high profile 3D printed products were presented at the actual Euroluce fair this year – has improved significantly. And so has their commercial reach. And mainly thanks to the Dutch who are, within Europe, the people who most believe in 3D printing as a creative method and in its ability to bring new ideas to the table. The Masterly exhibit in the central Palazzo Giureconsulti showed several 3D printed lighting products that are relevant for different reasons.

The main driver was Philips and its Philips MyCreation initiative, which enables customers to customize their 3D printed lamps and order them online. The initiative was developed by Signify, the Eindhoven-based Philips spin-off dedicated to lighting products, to present a few of its newest designs.

Signify used the Milan Design Week 2024 event to unveil a new pendant lighting fixture from the Philips MyCreation range along with the Bar Infinite installation by Aectual. Created in collaboration with industrial designer Basten Leijh, the lamp draws inspiration from the concept of fabric layering, typical of the fashion world. It was envisioned to seamlessly blend design illumination, sustainability, and 3D printing innovation.

The Bar Infinite by Aectual at Signify’s Philips MyCreation installation.

The Bar Infinite is also an impressive use of 3D printing. In this case, a robotic large format additive manufacturing (LFAM) was used by another Dutch company, Aectual, with polymer-aluminum composite pellets, made from recycled Tetra Pak cartons. The projects resulted in an inspiring and and practical exercise of circular and sustainable creativity, both technological and artistic at the same time.

The Masterly exhibit offered a space for other designers to show their products including more 3D printed lamps. One was the WingLight, a stunning multi-functional pendant luminaire also marketed by Philips MyCreation. Created by design studio Groen & Boothman, the Wing Light pushes the boundaries of design and technology with a bold, horizontal profile reminiscent of a sleek, winged spacecraft. It’s not just about form as the light offers both direct down-lighting and softly diffused ambient light, making it a versatile and practical addition to any space. The studio also presented a hybrid bracelet, with a 3D printed scaffold covered by leather for a uniquely elegant and superlight product.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?
The WingLight created by design studio Groen & Boothman, also for the Signify collection.

Another stunning creation – one of the most impressive seen to date – was the AUREOLE collection from Rollo Studio. These lamps are unique because they are made using sand binder jetting technology, thus implementing an extremely intricate generative geometry for distinct textures that play with light in mesmerizing ways.

Rollo Studio’s ingenuity is based on biomimicry – the art of drawing inspiration from nature’s finest designs and processes to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products. With a specialization in contemporary lighting pieces for interior design, the studio seamlessly integrates organic geometry and earthy materials, pushing the boundaries of modern technology while cherishing traditional craftsmanship.

 

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

This is something that we, as VoxelMatters and all its previous names (Replicatore, 3Discover.it, 3D Printing Business Media, 3dpbm) have been presenting at Milano Design Week since 2014 when we first organized the Synthesis event (followed by Arthesis and Methesis in the following years). And we also thought we’d be a lot further along.

In the video below, an interview I gave (in Italian) during the Synthesis event in 2014, where we exhibited parts 3D printed in multiple technologies from the Barcelona-based studio Growthobjects – including metal binder jetting and technical ceramic stereolithography – and presented the first XFab, a $5,000 3D printer that was developed by Italian company DWS to rival with Formlabs’ Form1, offering higher printing quality. Autodesk also participated in the event to present its newest software for 3D printing. Curiously, Makerbot founder Bre Pettis visited the exhibit.

Expectations were high and some of them have been met. Millions of desktop printers are now installed worldwide, advanced technologies such as ceramic 3D printing and binder jetting, are becoming increasingly popular in the industry and software such as Fusion 360 has brought about new design capabilities that require the use of additive manufacturing. However a lot more still remains to be done and while AM is much more used today than it was then, its progress is also a lot less visible.

The wheels of design keep on turning

In the broader Salone del Mobile exhibits and Milano Design Week series of events, 3D printing often pops up within some of the most advanced technological products or as part of unique installations. Automaker Cupra created one of the most noticeable and elegant events at the Cupra Garage in trendy Corso Como, where it showed the Cupra Dark Rebel concept, which features a metal additively manufactured spine.

The Cupra C&T policy focuses on new authenticity through the use of parametric design and additive manufacturing as an approach to sustainable manufacturing. As an example, the Dark Rebel’s central spine, which is the absolute protagonist of the interior, is made with 3D printed metal taking Cupra’s design to the next level in terms of materials and technologies.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

Another interesting event saw FIT Additive Manufacturing Group’s Additive Tectonics team work with renowned architect and designer Harry Thaler on some truly inspiring furniture pieces that were on display at one of the Alcova locations, for the very first time outside Milan. The Villa Bagatti Valsecchi in Varedo location offered a spectacular exhibition space with beautiful outdoor areas for a set of elegant wood 3D printed furniture items.

Harry Thaler’s Printed Nature exhibition, realized in collaboration with econitWood company, The exhibition is held as part of the Fuorisalone for Milan Design Week within Alcova, an independent off-site fair. The new series of furniture elements is made for the first time with the innovative material: econitWood. Ecological responsibility and digital design blend in this new technology, which uses wood scraps from the industry and 3D printing technology for architectural and design applications.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

The Salone fair also saw some limited 3D printing, mainly in the Salone del Mobile Bagno pavilion. One of the most highlighted products was the vitreous-ceramic Rista 3D printed sink created by Kohler in collaboration with Daniel Arsham. Kohler’s project that led to the Rista sink began with the Rock.01 3D printed sink. In this project, a relatively simple shape was printed using a combination of internally developed technologies to print a vitreous material via paste-based pneumatic material extrusion.

The ultra limited-edition 3D printed sink was too complex to realize using traditional manufacturing methods and comprised 7.5 hours worth of continuously printed vitreous china and patinaed hand-cast brass. As such, Rock.01 was accurately referred to as ‘functional high art’, while Rista is taking a small step closer to full commercialization.

Also in the Bagno area, the Under the Surface exhibit, designed and realized by Accurat, Design Group Italia, and Emiliano Ponzi (Salotto.NYC) is a symbolic immersion into the value of water through the construction of a submerged island reminiscent of Atlantis and the projection of data on global water resources.

The volumes, immersed in a blue light, transition from deep shades of blue and azure to white, while the shared data concerns freshwater withdrawal in the water sector, global precipitation levels, and the sector’s three major challenges: water consumption and access, energy consumption, and material recycling. A key element of the exhibit were the 3D printed replicas of underwater reefs that resembled the ones 3D printed in concrete by Coastruction.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

The rest of the 3D printed creativity remains mostly confined to experimental and academic exploration seen at the SaloneSatellite. Here 3D printing remains a major driver for innovation and regularly gets ample recognition in the SaloneSatellite Awards. This year, a set of metal 3D printed magnetic “Voronoi” coffee cups, designed by EGOUNDESIGN Studio and printed on a 3D4Brass 3D printer by Italian company 3D4Mec, took home third prize and there were other interesting products also on display.

Voronoi, a sculptural system of six small faceted containers, vertically assembled through internal magnets and the first product to be 3D printed in pure brass, was chosen for “the effort of research leading to a new mode of production and application of 3D printing,” as explained by the jury.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

More projects came again from The Netherlands, with IOUS studio presenting NUBE, a collection of parametrically designed Cloud lamps, and a set of cladding, both 3D printed in clay. Both were produced as part of a technical partnership with Italian clay 3D printer manufacturer WASP.

IOUS studio was founded in Rotterdam and draws on the technological influences of the city. It was co-founded in 2022 by Argentinian-born, Netherlands-based architect and design duo Sol Sanchez Cimarelli and Agustin Ros, whose professional backgrounds involve offices such as Aedas (Dubai), Fuksas (Rome), EDSA Inc. (USA), Erick van Egeraat (Rotterdam), and GUN Architects (Berlin).

And then it was back to lighting, with a parametrically designed luminaries collection from Argentinian studio Bilu, founded by Ignacio Martínez Todeschini, who developed a particular algorithm that “hides” the printed layers. Used in the Mapu lamp, it gives it the texture and appearance of a rock, for a feeling of pure authenticity based on the erosion of stone and the passage of time. The objects not only illuminate but also stand as sculptures when turned off.

Bilu arises from the need to challenge the rigid conventions of Industrial Design, adopting a more flexible and organic approach, enhanced by new production methods. At the intersection between art and technology, the Rio De La Plata style is incorporated into its DNA, with influences from the native crafts of this region. Bilu means “beautiful” in Charrúa, the native American people of Uruguay, in honor of Ignacio’s second nationality.

3D printed lamps shine on at Salone del Mobile but after 10 years of 3D printing in design, is the light shining bright enough?

AM at the crossroads of materials and design

A lot more time will have to pass before additive manufacturing makes a truly significant impact in the design world for larger furniture products. If and when that happens, a lot will have to do with the ability to print with new and better materials. Products that used concrete, sand, wood and recycled composites (mixing aluminum and polymers) – or even designs in biosourced plastic resembling the finish of stone – were among the most visually and physically impactful.

Metals such as brass are also valid options but perhaps still too costly for commercial production. The moment for high-end materials and 3D printing to cross paths is not that far. Two exhibits in the 5 Vie design district showed the evolution of materials such as hemp, steel and ceramics in Japan. In one case, the company ABEL presented ABEL BLACK, which uses technologies that fuse real metallic textures and rich colors, in an exhibit with Dutch artist Fleur van Dodewaard, and Teruhiro Yanagihara Studio of Japan.

These special processes allow stainless steel to generate its own tint. The effect is not achieved by paint or plating, but using a solution that energizes the material, developing a 0.4 micro-meter oxidized stainless steel layer. This has high resistance to heat, climatic conditions and corrosion. The color is in the material itself and several stainless steel surface textures and finishes are available, including hairline, vibration and bead-blast. Blacks range from glossy jet, to sharp matt. Strong and beautiful ABEL BLACK is widely deployed for its luxurious effect across architectural materials, automobile exteriors and commercial furniture. Imagine the possibilities of applying this technology to 3D printed stainless steel parts. Hemp and traditional ceramic also have great possibilities for their use in 3D printing that should be explored more by established companies for commercial applications.

These are all beautiful materials – and processes – that can be used with 3D printing. Either as printable materials or as finishes in hybrid products such as the plastic spine in the bracelet presented by Groen & Boothmam or the metal spine in the Cupra Dark Rebel.

Until then, it will be up to innovative young studios and students to continue showing new ways of making things and exploring new design possibilities. Hopefully with more help from larger brands, following in the footsteps of Cupra (VW Group) and Signify (Philips).

Research
Composites AM 2024

746 composites AM companies individually surveyed and studied. Core composites AM market generated over $785 million in 2023. Market expected to grow to $7.8 billion by 2033 at 25.8% CAGR. This new...

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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