3D Printing Processes

Converting waste plastic into 3D printed Sabato Mussel Planters

Aectual and DUS architects collaborated on a project to recycle beach plastic waste

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Dutch architecture firm House of DUS and Aectual were invited by Belgian magazine Sabato to create a unique limited-edition product, as part of their yearly ‘Knokke’ series. Every year Sabato invites an international design team to produce a unique item made from materials locally found in the Belgian coastal town. The result of this year’s project is the Sabato Mussel Planters, a set of two architectural planters, 3D printed from plastic from the high tide line in Knokke.

The design of the large-scale planters was inspired by the natural shape of mussels, and the planters are suitable for indoor and especially outdoor use. They are made from 100% recycled waste plastic, and just like real shells, each has its unique patina. More so, mussels “print” their shells in a layered manner, just like Aectual’s 3D printing technology. The natural shapes of the large planters are perfectly dimensioned for terraces and balconies, to bring the natural beach feeling back home.

The planters are produced on-demand in a limited edition. Each planter is numbered, color graded by hand, and bears a unique signature. The Wide planter measures 98 x 40 x 29 cm, while the Tall planter is 55 x 45 x 49 cm. They are available for sale exclusively via the Sabato magazine online shop until September 30th and after that available via Aectual, with a maximum of 500 planters.

Converting waste plastic into 3D printed Sabato Mussel Planters
Photography: Alexander D’Hiet

With the beach season just around the corner, Sabato wanted to draw attention once again to the problem of ocean plastic. The Aectual team was also present to roam the beach and collect plastic waste. “This project is close to my heart,” said says Martine de Wit, one of the three founders of Aectual. “I was born and raised in the dunes of Texel, in the house of my grandfather who was a dune farmer. As a child, I took everything I encountered with me on beach walks. That’s what I’m teaching my kids now. Based on the idea: you leave the beach cleaner than how you found it. Usually, we mainly find plastic. Logical, because that’s not perishing. That’s part of the problem. But also the solution. It is durable enough to be used outdoors, for example. And you can reuse it several times.”

The Amsterdam studio designed these planters, especially for Sabato. ‘The shape refers to the mussel shell. Because scientific research shows that mussels contain an enormous amount of microplastic particles. But also because a shell is actually “3D printed by nature”. If you look closely, you can see that it has been built up layer by layer.’ Aectual made two planters: a low oval and a high round one. They are printed from local waste plastic: a mix of beach plastic found from Knokke and Belgian Household PP waste. “That’s why the planter is black. If you mix all the waste, that’s the color that remains,” explained Hedwig Heinsman, the third founder of Aectual.

“We mix white pigment in by hand, creating subtle lines that are reminiscent of the mussel shell.” Because each planter is individually printed – and not cast in a mold – each specimen looks slightly different. One planter contains the equivalent of about 120 plastic shampoo bottles.



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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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