Who Cares that it’s 3D printed?


Aya Bentur  

pq Eyewear 3D Printed Designed by Ron Arad - Make it LEO

In a way, Ron Arad‘s change of attitude toward 3D printing represents a global trend. In 2000, his first works with the technology questioned the position of 3D printing between the two existing ways of manufacturing at the time: “made by hand” and “made in China”. This exploration matured into his most recent projects which highlight an opposite approach: using additive manufacturing simply because it is the right technology for the product and because it enables contemporary business models.

Arad is not alone, here’s an overview of 3D printed designs illustrating the change in how the design world perceives and uses 3D printing.

Not Made by Hand Not Made in China - 3D Printed Designed by Ron Arad Early 2000

Ron Arad Then and Now

In the early 2000’s Ron Arad created “Not Made by Hand, Not Made in China” a collection of jewelry, vases, and sculptures (above). The collection was one of the first to experiment with 3D printing as a production method that can be used not only for prototypes but rather for final objects as well. At the time 3D printing was an exciting new way of making things, today Ron Arad looks at it from a different perspective: “I think that it is exciting as the iPad was, like the walkman was. It is excellent and fantastic, but we move on. It is just a new tool that we have.”

"3D printing is abused" – Ron Arad from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Today when Ron Arad discusses his designs of 3D printed eyewear (below and up top), the main focus isn’t the technology. He utilizes the characteristics of 3D printing without treating it as a novelty, because it no longer is a novelty.

pq Eyewear 3D Printed Designed by Ron Arad
Arad’s recent Jewelry collection was exhibited last month at Louisa Guinness Gallery. The exhibition, titled RON ARAD ROCKS!, shows 3 separate projects: Rocks, Naja and Hot Ingo. Hot Ingo (below) is a reinterpretation of earrings  initially created in 2003, using 3D printed polyamide and 18 karat gold. The black, white and red spirals expand and contract, using the flexibility of 3D printed material.


Hot Ingo 3D Printed Jewelry designed by Ron Arad

For One and Many

ExoSols (below) are custom orthotics, made to measure. The company turns to 3D printing to provide the best solution for each individual, in effect, allowing for mass customization. Combined with an app and an e-commerce platform, the technology enables an accessible product for a range of people and problems. The technology enables a business model that would be otherwise impossible. This isn’t the only example of a disruptive business model being enabled by additive manufacturing – see our previous post on the spare parts revolution.


Exosols - 3D Printed  insoles designed for customization
The Home Court Advantage

Andrea de Chirico from Super Local believes in the urgency of updating our methods of production. Production should address the local and social context, as a generating force in a community. Local production can provide jobs and value as well as minimizing pollution caused by unnecessary shipping.

Parts of SuperLocal Hairdryer with 3D Printed Filter SuperLocal Hairdryer with 3D Printed Filter

Super Local creates modules of objects that can be manufactured locally. The production relies on local craftsmen as well as local companies and institutions. This Hairdryer (above) was produced in the San Lorenzo district, in Rome. The glass was manufactured by a local glass blower, Giuseppe Russo, the wooden handle by local design studio ROTALAB, and the filters 3D printed by the local FabLab. This is an example of small scale local production but the same principles can be applied in a bigger, industrial scale such as creating multiple internationally spread production stations.

Drawing a Circle

For Dirk Vander Kooij a major motive to use 3D printing is recycling. He transforms used refrigerators and discarded CD cases into granules of synthetic material which is extruded by a robotic arm to form full-size furniture without the use of any molds (below Chubby Chair and detail of Satellite Lamp).

Chubby Chair Designed by Dirk Vander Kooij Photocredits Stanley vander Hoeven

Detail 3D Printed Satellite Lamp Designed by Dirk Vander Kooij

The process began with the machine itself, adapting the robotic arm to the needs of production by additive manufacturing. After several years of working with the technology, the result ranges from colorful, poetical and funny to strong printed synthetic vases, chairs, tables and lamps. 3D printing creates an opportunity to produce industrial quality products without huge investments in tools, tooling, and inventory.  


Dutch Profiles: Dirk van der Kooij from Dutch Profiles on Vimeo.

Using a technology to its fullest means considering the specifications of the produced object and choosing the ultimate way to manufacture it. This means mature manufacturing methods like 3D printing are chosen by merit and not by novelty.

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