3D-Printed Stilettos, Lemon Squeezers, and Chairs on View in London

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.03D-printed shoes by Chau Har Lee

We want these shoes...and the fact that they're 3D-printed makes them even more special.

TreeHugger Lloyd has been writing about 3D printing for ages. In 2010 he said: "It will be the next disruptive technology, radically changing design and manufacturing. Flatpack furniture will be cut to order at the neighbourhood CNC centre; flatware for your table will be 3D printed. No more inventory, no more shipping, no more big box retailer."

A show in London at modern furniture retailer Aram, called "Send to Print/Print to Send" explains the process, shows the work that can be made from this amazing technique and makes Lloyd's prediction seem even more prescient.

But what is it?

3D printing is a new way of making items where a specially designed printer, controlled by a computer, builds a one-off complex shape in layers of plastic. But instead of ink, a continuous strand of polyamide or nylon is layered up to create a 3D form, based on a computer drawn image. Before it was used for prototypes, now it is being used to produce finished designs.

What do they look like?

That's where things get interesting to the non-techie. Chau Har Lee has been hand-making shoes and often employs a crossover of making and manufacturing processes from fields other than shoemaking in order to realise her concepts.

She says "This gives me much scope for creativity in the design stage by removing boundaries associated with traditional methods. However, my knowledge of traditional shoemaking helps me know how and where I can break these boundaries. Importantly, although my most conceptual designs are showpieces, they are still built to adorn the foot."

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 3D-printed chair by Dirk Vander Kooij

The beautiful blue chair (above), created by the affectionately named Robot Herman, is made by ejecting a thread of molten plastic in one continuous movement--like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.

So instead of developing an expensive injection mould, the model can change each time according to the new design. Called the Endless Chair, the design has grown into a range of products all making the production process more visible.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 3D-printed glass objects by Marcus Kayser

Then there are these Solar-Sinter machine experiments. This project examines the ability to produce in the desert, recognizing raw material shortages.

Sunlight and silica sand are used as the raw energy and material to produce these glass objects. The process combines natural energy and material with high tech production. Produced in the Sahara desert, the objects are white glass with a greenish tint, whilst some made in the Moroccan desert are black, because of dark grains from the nearby mountains.

The creator explains: "By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world."

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 3D-printed lemon squeezer by Assa Ashuach

It's a lemon squeezer, but each one is different. That's because with special co-design software, users can change and personalize the form and function.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 3D-printed tapestry by Chloe McCormick

These lovely bits of tapestry are a new take on an old art. Created by a tapestry designer who wanted to combine advanced processes and materials (nylon) with ancient weaving to see if she could achieve a fresh interpretation of the discipline.

She explains:

I am combining the craft of hand weaving with groundbreaking modern technology, in the hope that future designers will once again be excited by this diminishing skill. By using the prototyping bureau my tapestries can be scaled up or down to any size and moulded into any form. Using thermoplastics for the 3D moulds means the warps are light, strong and durable and could therefore translate to furniture, jewellery and numerous other forms.

The show sets out and succeeds in examining how designers are developing and accommodating new technological advances.

Tags: Architects | Designers | Furniture