Tessa’s Weekly Picks – Milan Design Week through 3D printing eyes


Tessa Blokland  

Swiss bases academy ECAL presented Digital Market at via dell'Orso 16 during Milan Design Week 2018.

In the preparation for my yearly visit to the Milan Design Week there were some remarkable exhibitions and projects I wanted to see for sure. What I noticed was that design brands and designers were more exploring the possibilities of how to commercialize their designs with 3D printing. A very interesting direction, I think. While walking in Milan, I noticed that 3D printing has become more part in the presentation of an exhibition, because of the better quality of finishing of 3D printing. Materials have become more advanced as well as 3D printer manufacturers and service providers are very eager to adjust their machines for better results. Milan Design Week was a good platform for 3D printing this year. Taking all the 3D printed projects, products and exhibitions into account, it really gave a nice overview of the full potential and usage of 3D printing in 2018.

3D Printing for Prototyping

3D printing is one of the tools designers often use in their product development. It gives designers more freedom to experiment with the shape of the design, but it also saves time in the product development process by making quick design iterations. A continuing trend during this year’s Milan Design Week is showing the design process, like Dutch design collective Envisions did with their work for Finsa, a Spanish particleboard and MDF manufacturer. This year Japanese design studio Nendo blew me away with an amazing exhibition at Superstudio Píu, nendo: forms of movement. Nendo presented a showcase of 10 different collaboration with Japanese manufacturers using unique materials and advanced techniques, among others 3D printing in the design process of the end product. I was very impressed by the collaboration with YKK, world’s largest zipper manufacturing. Using digital files and 3D printing, it is easier to enlarge the zipper to fully understand how it works and what kind of adjustments can be made.

Detail of a 3D printed scale model of an adjusted YKK zipper

3D Printing for Distributed Manufacturing

A great example of distributed manufacturing of 3D printable files became clear to me when talking to Brazilian designer Camila Fix. Together with Dutch design curator/writer/advisor Jorn Konijn, she curated the exhibition, Nossa Casa (Our Home). Fix and Konijn commissioned 11 Brazilian designers to give their vision on ‘our home’, representing their own feeling of belonging in Brazil. Because of the tight budget the curators decided to save in transportation costs by transferring the 3D printable files and have them printed in Europe. Using 3D printing and distributed manufacturing give designers the possibility to present their work in many more places at the same time without all the trouble of logistics of the physical objects.

Pesca Stool by Plataforma4

3D Printing for One-Offs

The Milan Design Week is an excellent platform to show (off with) new experiments and expertise. Nagami presented 4 extraordinary 3D printed chairs at piazza Castello 5. Each of them, designed by well-known architects and designers, different in shape and color.  The 3D printing project that impressed me most was built especially for the Milan Design Week at piazza Cesare Beccaria, just 500 meters behind the Duomo of Milan. The 3D Housing 05, as the project is called, is a collaborative project by CLS Architetti, Italcementi, CyBe and Arup to research on the possibilities offered by 3d printing in the field of sustainable architecture, responding to the increasingly urgent revolution in the world of housing. The detailing of the house in combination with the always recognizable layers of 3D printing and the use of additional materials was just amazing. Another example of 3D concrete printing is from Philippe Aduatz who collaborated with start-up 3D printing company incremental3D for Austria. To show the possibilities of the 3D printer and the software that comes with the machine, incremental3D asked Aduatz to come up with a design that would stretch the boundaries of their developed 3D printing technique. The Digital Chaiselongue is an impressive example of this. Hans Maier-Aichen, German photographer and former owner of Authentics, used 3D printing to transform the objects on his photos to 3D printed objects. It is fantastic to see the photographed objects in 3D printed miniatures; my eyes were drawn to the details of these objects whereas in the photos I did not noticed them.

3DHousing05, a 3D printed 100sqm house

Digital Chaiselongue, designed by Philipp Aduatz and 3D printed by incremental3D

3D Printing for Sale

Most of the 3D printed products shown during Milan Design Week are not for sale but are presented to show the potential of the technique in combination of the material. That is why I really like the presentation of ECAL. The design school from Lausanne impressed me with ECAL Digital Market (see top image), an exhibition with 3D printer manufacturer FormLabs, a handful designers and design students from ECAL. The products were all 3D printed onsite and were all sold at the exhibition. For those who were not able to come to the shop, you can buy a digital file of the product for €9 and 3D print it yourself. Unfortunately the digital files are not protected (yet); the school asks you to only print the products for personal use and not for commercial purposes. Another big surprise to me were the developments of Ecco Innovation Lab, the R&D department of shoe manufacturer ECCO, presenting at the Dassault Systemes event at Superstudio Píu. With special software they would scan your foot with its specific pressure points. This digital file is sent to a 3D printer where a personalize 3D printed silicon mid-sole is manufactured based on the scan of your foot. The gain is a mid-sole that fits all Ecco shoes, with better support to your body resulting in less painful feet at the end of the day. The future plan is to enroll this to all Ecco stores in the world. Also CHP…? A Gijs Bakker project, the design jewelry brand we collaborated with in 2015, was also present with very nice and delicate 3D printed fingertip coverers, Finger Blocks, designed by mischer’traxler studio, to stop using our devices.

Exhibition view2

Exhibition view6

3D printed silicon mid-sole, developed by the Innovation Lab Ecco

3D printed Finger Blocks, designed by mischer’traxler studio for chp...? A project by Gijs Bakker for the Milan Design Week exhibition  ‘Device People’

I am sure I missed a lot of other interesting 3D printed products and projects. Feel free to share them with us! Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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