Aug 21, 2015 | By Alec

When people first hear about 3D printed furniture, most reactions are somewhere along the lines of ‘but surely 3D printed parts aren’t strong enough?’ However, furniture designers are increasingly and successfully adopting 3D printed components as an additional, rather than a replacement, technology. In these cased 3D printed parts are combined with wood, metal or fabric to create some amazing and stylish additions to any home. Just look at these fantastic 3D printed connectors called the + Shelf designed by Instructable user Shurly, which enable designers and homeowners to easily create fantastic modular pieces of furniture.

Hailing from Oakland, California, Shurly is a designer with a background in architecture who is also particularly focused on furniture design. As part of that passion, she has quickly adopted 3D printing technology as a modular design tool and regularly combines it with basic wooden components. Previously, she applied the same principles to wooden tables.

However, this latest project is unprecedented in its modularity. At its heart, it’s a shelving system that can be endlessly combined with wooden boxes to create fantastic and original additions to your home. As she explains, that modularity was the primary goal behind this project. ‘The primary goal was to design a system that anyone could adapt to suit their own space and stuff. The secondary goal was to test whether minimal 3d-printed joints had the structural integrity to hold the weight of solid plywood,’ she says.

But when starting out with design, she did begin with a couple of criteria for the + shelves themselves. ‘They couldn't have too many types of parts. They had to be modular. And the pieces all had to be simple shapes that were easy to fabricate. The complexity had to arise from the aggregate of the parts, not the parts themselves,’ she says. And what she came up with is remarkably simple, and therefore so widely applicable. The + shelf is essentially a 3D printed connector in the form of a plus. Each plus connects two boxes diagonally, by snapping into holes drilled into the edges. This way, they are widely different from the shelving units you buy at Ikea, for instance.

And what’s more, they are very easy in use. All you need is all the wood you’d like to work with, suitable wood glue (and hot glue), some woodworking and cutting tools, and a 3D printer. The STL files for the + shelves can be found on Shurly’s instructable here. ‘I printed the plusses on an Objet 3d printer in Vero White, because I knew that it would take dye well. Once printed, I followed this instructable to dye them. The colors turned out really fun and vibrant, but it turns out they eroded the prints a bit and made them more bendy, which ultimately led to some structural problems with the shelf,’ she says. Leaving them uncolored might therefore be a good idea.

Shurly herself had some excellent results with these 3D printed connectors already. ‘I had to be sure the design would even work. I screwed together a couple pieces of plywood and printed a couple of plusses. Then I drilled a bunch of holes in the wood until I got some that allowed the plus to snap tightly into place. The 3d print had just the right amount of give to fit into the holes without popping back out again,’ she explains. ‘Once I determined the optimal distance for the drill holes from the edge of the wood I built a little jig that would let me place the holes in the right location every time.’

The cubbies themselves were easily made from single sheets of 4'x8' plywood, which she cut into pieces with a table saw. ‘Assembling the cubbies was pretty straight forward. The key was to biscuit, clamp and glue all 4 sides simultaneously to ensure that they were all at 90 degree angles. Once they were all built, I did a test of how the whole configuration would stack’, she adds. However, that obviously depends on the materials you have available. Doubtlessly, premade cubbies are also available.

And this setup worked perfectly, though Shurly advised adding some super glue in the drill holes to ensure the plusses don’t go anywhere. And that is really all there is to it – a really convenient and quick way to assemble your own, highly modular furniture at home. While 3D printed parts can definitely be used, Shurly is currently looking into metal alternatives for greater structural integrity. While these plastic versions are perfect for smaller scale shelving units, metal might after all be safer when covering your whole wall in them.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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