3D printing has revolutionized industries throughout the world. It has been used for everything from making bionic hands, to parts for Formula 1 cars, and soles for trainers, but the applications of 3D printing have really only just scratched the surface.
But are we likely to start seeing 3D printed items around our homes any time soon?
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping. It uses digital files that contain coordinates to create 3D objects by melting plastic and feeding it out in layers to build up the shape.
The technology for 3D printing has been around since the 1980s but it has exploded in popularity in recent years with the development of more compact 3D printers, including personal ones for home use.
Can You make Furniture with 3D Printing?
The first thing to remember is that any piece of furniture that you make with 3D printing will be made of plastic or metal. This, of course, means that there will be limits to the type of furniture that can be made with 3D printing. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount of potential for making furniture with 3D printing.
You aren’t going to be able to find 3D printed furniture in large well-known furniture stores around the world like Living Spaces, Homes Direct 365 & Made at the moment, but it is being made. At the moment, mainly by high-end furniture designers who are using the technique to flex their creativity and try out new and exciting designs.
The most popular type of furniture for 3D printing at present are chairs and tables but there is also a wide range of decorative pieces being designed as well.
Some 3D printed furniture is solely made using that technique but for other designs, only one element of the piece of furniture is 3D printed with other elements being made with other techniques. The ability to create pieces of furniture that incorporate multiple techniques means that there will be more and more 3D printed furniture designs that can be created.
3D printed furniture will also mean that pieces can be more easily customized because all the designer has to do is input the new settings into their 3D printer and press go.
It also means that companies or people can more easily make prototypes of pieces of furniture that won’t ultimately be 3D printed. They can then show these prototypes to potential buyers to gauge interest before going ahead and making the final version. A 3D printed prototype is cheaper and quicker to produce so it means that new designs can be more easily showcased, especially for start-ups.
Can I make 3D Printed Furniture at Home?
So we know that designers are starting to branch out and make 3D printed furniture, but if you have a 3D printer at home you might be wondering if you can make some yourself.
The bad news is that you probably won’t be able to make a fully 3D printed piece of furniture unless you have a large-scale 3D printer. But, even if you only have a standard 3D printer, you can still use 3D printed elements in your DIY furniture projects.
You can, for example, make 3D printed joints or connective elements as part of your furniture design. Or you can make smaller decorative objects that you can use to really make your furniture ideas stand out.
How Long Does it take to 3D Print a Chair?
If you do happen to have a large-scale 3D printer and you’re raring to go with making a fully 3D printed piece of furniture, you might be wondering how long the process could take.
The short answer is “it depends”. The bigger the chair, the longer the printing process is going to take. Another factor is how detailed the design is and how dense you want the material to come out. It could take anywhere from an hour to three days to 3D print a chair, but even at the longer end of the timescale, it could be quicker than waiting for one to be delivered! And you get the satisfaction of designing and creating your very own piece of furniture.
Can You make a Chair with a 3D Pen?
If you have a 3D pen, I’m sure you could picture slowly building up a piece of furniture with it. And, yes, it can be done. Whether it’s something you might actually want to attempt or not is another story.
A Korean designer called Jungsub Shim 3D printed an intricate chair design using a 3D pen, but it took them months of 8 hour days to make it. It was part of a university design project and it told a story of connectedness and the repetitive nature of the movements spoke to how monks use prayer.
So it’s not exactly a bank holiday weekend project. But it is a fascinating way of using new technology to create art and tell a story.
How to Buy 3D Printed Furniture
You have two options when it comes to buying 3D printed furniture. You can either buy the furniture after it has been printed or you can buy the specifications and the computer files and print the furniture off yourself. You can either print it off on your own 3D printer or you can take it to a 3D printing company so that they can print it off for you.
The cost is really variable depending on the size of the piece of furniture, the material it is made out of, the design elements, and whether or not you are printing it off yourself. At the moment, buying printed furniture may be out of reach for a lot of people, but it is probably going to become a lot more common in the next few years.
3D printing is exploding at the moment and the uses of the technology are growing by the day. 3D printed furniture is really in its infancy at the moment but as the technology improves and more designers start using it in their furniture, it is likely to become much more commonplace.