Apr 30, 2016 | By Tess

Since its founding in 1921, the Italian housewares company Alessi has made a name for itself  by making and collaborating with known designers and architects to create stylish and practical design objects for the home. Recently, the design company’s philosophy of creating handcrafted goods with the help of machines was brought into the digital, 3D printing age, with their recent project/exhibition “Alessi Goes Digital”. The project, made in collaboration with industrial designer Giulio Iacchetti, consists of a series of digitally designed and 3D printed pens.

The inspiration for the project came from Iacchetti, who was interested in creating the quintessential analog object—the pen—using digital technologies. The project actually began two years ago, as Iacchetti and some of his designer friends set out to create a set of 3D printed pens, though the initial effort did not end up coming to fruition. To get his idea off the ground again, Iacchetti approached Alessi, a company traditionally working with analogue production,  to collaborate with him on the project. He explains, “I decided to go to Alessi and transform a new generation self-production into a research project for a company.”

The “Alessi Goes Digital” series consists of six, totally functional, pens that have been digitally designed and additively manufactured from a mix of nylon and fibreglass. Manufactured in collaboration with Modena based 3D printing company CRP Technology, each of the pens represents a design that could not be achieved using traditional manufacturing processes and takes advantages of the design liberties afforded by 3D design and printing. Each of the pens has been designed to fit the same refill, and to be packaged in the same way, but their casing designs are each unique.

The collection of 3D pens were on display at Iacchetti’s studio during Milan Design Week 2016, from April 12 to 15th. The exhibition not only featured the final 3D printed prototypes for the beautifully designed pens, but many failed prototypes, which help to fully illustrate the process each of the designers and Alessi went through. As Iacchetti explains, there were dozens of failed attempts as the team of designers experimented with different 3D printing materials and even 3D printing services. For the first prototype, the pen was made through Shapeways Eindhoven out of a traditional nylon material, which proved too porous, for the second prototype a nanoceramic material used for dental prostheses was used, which despite having a nice soft finish, was too fragile of a material. The third prototype was made from ABS, and was additively manufactured in collaboration with Terni based company Alphaprotech, but this last one also proved too fragile. To finally get the mix of soft finish and strength that they required for the handheld analog device, they used a black nylon composite with fiberglass Windform GT, which gave them a smooth finish, with tough and scratch resistant properties.

Though the 3D printed pens are functional, their production was still more of a research project than the creation of a viable marketable product. As Iacchetti explains, “The pens were a test, maybe we’ll start working on other objects that are more in [Alessi’s] style. Today though is about celebrating the completion of this research.”

Of course, like with any new product, research is the first step, so perhaps one day in the near future we will be seeing ads for Alessi’s new line of expertly designed 3D printed pens.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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