Design from Scratch – 2 Examples Enabled by 3D Printing


Tessa Blokland  

3d printed faucet cascading design

In industrial (and really any) design, there may be assumptions we take for granted about products we’ve known for decades. These assumptions can be about form, material, shape, texture, etc. For example: water fixtures can’t have holes (the water will leak), ovens have metal or ceramic elements forming the heat chamber (can withstand the heat), materials have uniform properties (for multiple properties, like flexible and rigid in the same item, combine multiple parts or at least multiple steps in the manufacturing process), the fridge has a fixed height regardless of the user’s height, photos are flat and smooth. What if we could design free of these assumptions/constraints? Would we do things differently?

To get you started here are 2 examples of radical rethinking of everyday items.

1. Turn on the Tap

All the various tap designs have always had 1 thing in common: there is a pipe that ends in the nozzle which delivers the water from the main water system to our hands. The end of the faucet from the counter to the end of the nozzle had to incorporate 1 solid pipe. American Standard’s DXV challenged this thinking with 3D printing and brought a collection of faucet designs that are thought from scratch. One faucet has 19 small pipes and a texture that causes the water to simulate water cascading in a stream (see photo above). 2 other designs feature a pipe that splits into multiple pipes and then rejoins into 1 pipe creating holes where there have never been any before – a new aesthetic for a faucet that to some may initially seem disturbing or magical. The design elements can also be echoed in the knobs and accompanying fixtures.

2 3D printed Faucets designed by American Standard


2. New Old Style Heat

Convection ovens and heat chambers have been around for a while but Fathom Design started thinking of heat chambers from scratch with all the possibilities opened by 3D printing. The result is Pyra, a pyramid shaped heat chamber that can double as a convection oven that is entirely (except for electronics boards) made of plastic. The Pyra is intended for incubation and other heat chamber uses but it cooks food evenly and efficiently. It looks like no other oven, but it does remind of a tajine, a north African crock pot that is put in an oven with food in it (like couscous, vegetables, and meat) in order to cook the meal evenly.

Pyra - 3D printed convection oven

project-pyra-by-fathom-3D printed oven

Bonus: Building Blood Vessels – or not

Many have tried to build blood vessels either to replace existing ones or to supply blood to new tissue (being grown in the lab or in the body). It has proven a tricky problem. With the help of 3D printing, UPenn and MIT researchers have created a network of blood vessels through a new approach. A sugar network is printed (suspended in the air on supports, see below). A non soluble gel containing the cells is poured all around the sugar structure and when it hardens the sugar is melted away in water leaving a network of vessels for nutrients (or blood) inside the gel. An ingenious approach (video explanation can be found here).

3D printing blood vessel network using sugar

3D Printed Sugar for blood vessel network


There are many other examples, from creating 3D photos for the blind (not flat and not smooth), to customizing products to personal attributes, to printing a bike helmet with rigid and flexible parts in one piece, using specialized 3D printing technology.

What are you thinking of from scratch? For more inspirations, check out our Pinterest board or share your latest design in the comments below.

One thought on “Design from Scratch – 2 Examples Enabled by 3D Printing

  1. Very interesting! Especially the idea of sugar printed highways into creating blood vessels in an a Petri dish grown tissue, organ?

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