3D PRINTERS: INTRODUCTION
Furniture and 3D printers, an increasingly interesting topic. The furniture and furniture sector is one of the Made in Italy workhorses, above all in function of the value in terms of design and style that Italian companies provide to the market every year.
In addition to the moment of international caliber, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, around which the major players in the sector gravitate, there are multiple activities and events around which the advantages and potentials of an important sector for the economy of many are built districts.
Within the sector, a great deal of curiosity is being created regarding the joint use of know-how relating to furnishings and 3D printing. In fact, the new additive manufacturing technologies offer new possibilities to designers and manufacturers of furniture, and furnishing accessories.
Recently the young Dutch designer Lilian van Daal presented the development of a new armchair that embraces research, innovation and new 3D printing production technologies.
In addition, the designer has created, starting from the forms found in nature, a new armchair capable of recalling the intertwining of vegetable fabrics, giving strength and comfort to the new seat.
The project allows us to tackle a sector that we know well in CasaOmnia: that of the creation of prototypes for furnishings and furniture. In fact, the creation of a new piece of furniture involves many development phases, which can be supported using the various 3D printing techniques present.
A first prototype of form and assembly evaluation can in fact be produced with some of the 3D printing production technologies, while a functional prototype will require the use of high-performance materials capable of withstanding the seat tests.
3D PRINTERS: WHAT THEY ARE?
The most banal answer to the question of what 3D printers are is in consideration of the fact that “3D printing represents the natural evolution of traditional 2D printing”. They are in fact devices capable of creating any three-dimensional model through an additive production process, that is, starting from an object designed by software and replicating it in the real world with the aid of special materials.
The procedure usually involves placing one layer on top of the other, proceeding in cross sections. If the description is difficult to understand, think about when you want to build something with LEGO bricks: initially the pieces that make up the base are laid, then proceed upwards by fitting them in order to obtain the desired profile.
Over time, the techniques have been perfected, thus leading to the birth of modern publishing. A real revolution, passed for movable type machines and steam engines, up to inkjet cartridges and laser devices.
The next metamorphosis in the sector, to tell the truth already in place, is represented by the advent of today’s 3D printers. In fact, their task is no longer to imprint an image or text on a flat material, but to give life to any object in three dimensions. It does not create surface, but volume: and this is the revolution.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
There are different types of 3D printers. The most popular ones base their operation on the additive manufacturing process. That is, creating the object one layer at a time, starting with those below and gradually overlapping them until the entire height is covered. In this case, the process can be carried out by selective laser sintering, i.e. by heating special materials. Usually metal powders or thermoplastic substances are used and then placed in the correct position.
With molten deposition modeling, the same result is obtained, however using a heated nozzle that raises the temperature of the material before depositing it. In this case, plastic or metallic filaments are used, rolled up on a sort of skein which is progressively unrolled during printing.
In the industrial field, the production technique for laminating objects is also used, in which each layer is engraved by a laser before being positioned on the underlying one.
These are the methods most used in 3D printers, subject to continuous evolution since the 80s. Recently, the miniaturization of components and the need to keep costs low to facilitate the distribution, pushed towards a simplification of the entire process.
In recent years things have changed a little. In fact, 3D printing is no longer an exclusive of large companies, but has also reached the domestic sphere. To get an idea of the trend, The Pirate Bay has a section dedicated to file sharing.
Medicine also looks with increasing interest to these technologies: we have already spoken several times about the possibility of printing prostheses or even whole organs, with research already started also on the reproduction of tissues and blood vessels to be implanted in patients where traditional techniques are not prove effective.
The cost of the first machines was prohibitive even for large companies. Now things have definitely changed and for those who want to buy a 3D printer the investment is quite limited.
In fact, without mentioning one manufacturer rather than another, a simple online search is enough to find out that some models can also be purchased for less than 1,000 euros.
Obviously, those who are willing to pay more money can put their hands on printers with more advanced features and better resolution, but it is necessary to start from the assumption that the market is in full evolution and the price is destined to drop while the quality and variety of the offer are bound to multiply.
Also in this case the type of material used depends on the type of printer available. These are mainly thermoplastic substances and photo polymers. In laser sintering, however, compounds that have a metal at the base are often used, ensuring a higher resistance of the final result.
The evolution of technology is rapidly leading to the introduction of new materials: among these also carbon fiber. A distinction must also be made between the materials marked with the abbreviation PLA and ABS: the former are derived from corn starch and therefore biodegradable, while the latter are produced from oil and when heated emit fumes that are potentially harmful to health. However, the latter are sometimes preferred for their better resistance to mechanical stress.
The print “cartridges” are composed in most cases of filaments used for the creation of the deposit material.
Their cost is extremely varied as is an overall assessment of the cost of printing. In principle, it is necessary to estimate a few units of euro for each cubic centimeter, but the size and complexity of the model may vary significantly in the final estimate.
HOW ACCURATE ARE 3D PRINTERS?
The BigRep One model is also useful for realizing how the dimensions of the printer can be both contained and generous. In this case we are talking about a machine capable of reproducing anything in the space ofv1,15x1x1,19 meters, therefore also a table or a small piece of furniture if necessary.
In fact, in the “resolution” item, the technical sheet reports “0,1 mm”. In other words, the printed material is faithful to the original project at the tenth of a millimeter, therefore a quality more than sufficient for most applications, including that of furniture or interior design.
Finally, a more artisan one can be added to the mechanical printing process: when the print does not reach the desired quality level, it is possible to act on the surfaces with abrasive paper and treatment substances useful to improve the visual impact and the tactile experience of the object.
3D PRINTING OF THE FUTURE
Answering this question is not easy. Certainly in the next few years 3D printers will continue their evolution path, passing through an increasingly widespread diffusion also driven by a further reduction in prices.
Trying to imagine the moment when the market will become saturated, what has already happened with the more traditional counterparts that print in two dimensions could happen: the business can be gradually moved from the sale of devices to that of cartridges, in this case the material used for the creation of the models.
In all likelihood, new printing materials will be developed and sales systems, distribution and exchange of 3D models to be modified and created will find space. It will also be possible to further improve the software, simplifying the design phase so as to make it accessible to everyone.
In fact, the bottleneck soon will no longer be in the printing of the model, but in the creation of the model itself: the specific weight of the quality will have to be measured again on the creative side, since the realization will be democratically within everyone’s reach with a simple click.
3D RAPID LIQUID PRINTING
The concept of the Rapid Liquid Printing changes the two cornerstones of all approaches to additive manufacturing, which are the need of slicing of the object to be produced (i.e. its division into layers to be printed one after the other) and the frequent need for support structures to be printed together with the object to support it.
Now the MIT and Steelcase developed the Rapid Liquid Printing, a 3D printing system which avoids both these aspects and which has already been tested in production of furnitures.
In the Rapid Liquid Printing 3D printing takes place by extrusion of material from a nozzle, as in the deposition printing, which moves inside a tank of gel. This has the consistency of hair gel and supports the material extruded, which therefore does not need specific support structures.
Another important element: virtually the printing area has no limits, or rather it is limited only by the size of the gel tank in which the nozzle moves.
This allows you to create large objects. In addition, according to the MIT and Steelcase, the Rapid Liquid Printing it is a much faster process than the others additive techniques.
Although in some ways the Rapid Liquid Printing reminiscents of polymer lithography, the extruded material is fixed by chemical reaction and not by the action of light or of a laser beam. The system allows the use of materials such as gums, plastics and polyurethanes that come out of the nozzle a bit like toothpaste from a tube.
It is also possible to use two materials simultaneously, which at the exit from the extruder chemically combine with each other.
The designers of furniture and furnishings are among the main users of 3D printers, which allow you to create objects with complex shapes without limits to their creativity.
Digital technologies are powerful tools at the service of designers’ creativity, as they offer the opportunity to devote more time to the creative process and to experiment with a greater number of solutions thanks to the rapidity and efficiency of the prototyping process, with the possibility of presenting to their own customers a finished and functional product.
In fact, with 3D printing, designers can easily create prototypes to test and finish their creations before they go into production. Furthermore, with 3D printing it is possible to create objects that cannot be produced with any other technique.
Because the 3D print it is particularly advantageous in the production of unique objects or in small series, lends itself optimally to improve the competitiveness of many typical companies of the Made in Italy that produce precious objects of crafts, such as design objects, furnishing accessories and models or parts of furniture, up to complete furniture. Chairs, armchairs and lamps are among the most produced items.
Here, therefore, 3D printing could soon reveal a two-faced nature: on the one hand, guaranteeing great freedom to independent designers who could move from concept to manufacture in almost real time, on the other, canceling entire production districts together with their manufacturing knowledge.
Another possible problem arises from copyright protection: if today reproducing a certified copy of an object requires a production structure of a certain size tomorrow anyone who has the geometric model of a product, perhaps downloaded from the internet, and a 3D printer could “pirate” an object and produce it on its own, be it a lamp or weapon.
LEAVE A COMMENT
This article aims to inform about the evolution and development of 3D printing technology and its various applications. If you intend to learn more or have doubts about its use and application possibilities, do not hesitate to leave a comment at the end of the article, we will reply as soon as possible!