Apr 7, 2016 | By Kira

For Milan Design Week 2016, Belgian design studio Unfold and 3D printing service Materialise have partnered for an art project that turns conventional SLA 3D printing on its head: rather than discarding the support structures generated during the 3D design process, Skafaldo makes them the very center of attention, while combining both digital and traditional manufacturing techniques.

Support structures are often seen as a necessary evil in 3D printing. Much like the temporary scaffolding used during bridge or building construction, support structures play an integral role in 3D design, allowing for parts with complex geometries, overhangs, or shallow angles to be built. Yet at the same time, they often entail extensive post-processing, requiring the designer to remove them, sand down their ridges, and discard the wasted material.

Like the inner workings of a machine, support structures are strictly about function over form. In fact, when done properly, the end user is never supposed to see or even think about them at all. Yet Belgian design studio Unfold wanted to know, can something so utilitarian also be seen as beautiful?

Support structures generated in Materialise e-Stage

To explore this concept, Unfold turned to Materialise’s e-Stage software, a program that automatically generates support structures for stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing. In doing so, e-Stage optimizes the SLA building process, reduces the amount of time required to manually design supports, and reduces material waste.

Unfold began by designing a 3D printed side table and 3D printed bowl, using Materialise e-Stage to automatically generate the support structures. Whereas normally, these lightweight structures would be 3D printed in resin, removed, and discarded, Unfold actually had the 3D printed supports cast in bronze by Factum Arte, a cutting-edge art studio that has previously 3D printed ancient Italian artifacts.

According to Unfold’s designers, they were inspired by neo-gothic industrial design and the work of Bernd & Hilla Becher, which they saw mirrored in the strong and intricate lines of the support structures. “It was interesting for us to ‘design’ with the e-Stage software, which tunes into our fascination for processes where you ride on the edge of control,” they said.

As for the bowl and side table—that is, the 3D designs used to generate the supports in the first place—these were never actually 3D printed. Instead, Unfold chose to create them through traditional manufacturing methods. The table was made with CNC wood milling by Modelmakerij Van Gerwen, while Czech glassblowing experts Ajeto Glassworks created the beautiful blue bowl.

Though the bowl and side table could certainly stand on their own, the bronze cast, 3D printed support structures are more than worthy of attention. The contrast between the organic shapes of the everyday, household goods against the rigid, structural lines of the scaffolding also creates a visually interesting juxtaposition.

Previously, Unfold has used 3D printing to explore the lines between form and function with these 3D printed ceramics and 3D printed furniture connectors.

Skafaldo will be presented at Milan Design Week 2016 as part of Belgian Matters, an exhibition concept conceived by Siegrid Demyttenaere on behalf of DAMN° magazine. Belgian Matters is held at Palazzo Litta and will feature pairings between 13 designers and companies from Belgium, with each project commissioned especially for the event, and displayed there for the first time. Milan Design Week, also known simply as Salone, is one of the largest furniture design and trade fairs in the world, and will be taking place this year between April 12 and 17.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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