Feb 1, 2016 | By Alec

If you’re one of those makers who is actively looking around the house for problems that can be fixed with your 3D printer, you will have probably noticed that Ikea furniture is particularly easy to combine with 3D printed components. In fact, you can also find quite a few making hacks online specifically intended for Ikea furniture, such as this 3D printed stool hack. It seems like the Swedish flat pack giant has finally picked up on this concept, as they are launching a series of pilot programs in Belgium and France where customers can bring broken furniture to Ikea repair stations for recycling or fixing with the help of a 3D printer.

In part, this interesting concept is about reimaging what furniture is with an eye on the waste mountain. Over the past few years the amount of waste we as a society are generating is increasing rapidly. Furniture, and the affordable very popular Ikea pieces prominent among it, is quickly becoming an issue for waste management. In England alone, the Furniture Re-Use Network estimated that 10 million household items end up in landfills every year, even though 3 million of those items can still be used by other people.

"It's interesting that there's a perception that products that are affordable are somehow also disposable," Steve Howard, Ikea's chief sustainability officer told Fast Company. "And we've got to challenge that. We think it's our obligation as a business to make sure there are good channels available for people to resell products that are good and when products are actually finished, those are recycled as well."

With this new program "Resource Chain Project”, Ikea is therefore hoping to transform the concept of furniture, into something that will grow along with us. If your kid doesn’t need a changing table anymore, why not add a few 3D printed parts and turn it into a desk? Even if that’s not a desk you’d like to have, other people might be very happy with a low cost alternative. This ‘circular economy’ concept especially aims at reducing waste through repair, reuse, refurbishment and recycling – something that will also greatly change the way Ikea produces furniture and interacts with its customers.

And to make this program more appealing to customers, the Belgian and French customers that come into contact with it are given vouchers for any old furniture they bring into the repair/recycling stations at Ikea. What’s more, Ikea says they have seen plenty of enthusiasm for landfill solutions already. Many people don’t even need vouchers for their efforts, but are happy to see that furniture is given a new purpose. A program in Sweden, in which people could bring plastic furniture to Ikea for recycling (even if it wasn’t bought at Ikea), was hugely successful.

Comparable programs are expected elsewhere in the future, and will also prominently rely on 3D printing, Ikea says. The company hopes to eventually have 3D printers on site at every Ikea store, so broken or missing parts won’t sentence a chair to a landfill immediately. Blueprints will also be made available for customers with 3D printers at home. While this 3D printing solution could take up to ten years before reaching stores everywhere, the technology is thus clearly on the radar of the Swedish giant.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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