How 3D Printing Is Changing Design Thinking

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Not too long ago, if you wanted to design and build a lamp out of plastic, you would draw it, then someone would make a wax or wood model of it, then a tool would be cut by a tool-and-die machinist, and then it would be cast. Each step of the way might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and to make it all worthwhile you would have to sell hundreds of them.

Frevent lamp

© Frevent Design

That's why I was so intrigued by this little lamp designed by Masoud Mahboobullah of Frevent Design and shown at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. It is such an interesting example of how the world has changed.

Frevent Printer

© Frevent Design

Now a designer can do a drawing and send it straight to a 3D printer, which can build up a working lamp out of PLA, the greener plastic. Masoud writes about why he developed it:

...out of frustration of the classic spring-loaded lights we decided to run an experiment and see how we can use the spring driven mechanism to make a light that stays where the user intends for it to stay rather than developing its own mind on where to rest. We came up with three different iterations as a solution, each with its advantages and challenges, this was an experiment and work is ongoing to make further changes and develop a better product.

Just as having a word processor doesn't make you a writer, having a 3D printer doesn't make you a designer. But this lamp is interesting; it is a complex little light, with a ratchet mechanism cast right in to hold it in place.

closeup of lamp

© Frevent Design

We used to write a lot about 3D printing on TreeHugger when it was new, before it fell into the trough of disillusionment. A dozen years ago I imagined a world where "we will download design on demand. It is like the music for our iPod; dematerialized bits and bytes put together again where we need it, without the waste of a physical intermediary."

What is so neat to me about Masoud's lamp is that it shows that my imagined world is finally happening. You can order one up from Frevent Design.