Sep 28, 2016 | By Benedict

Belgian 3D printing company Materialise has brought the “Making a Difference / A Difference in Making” exhibition to the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen, Germany. The exhibition presents 80 3D printed pieces which show how 3D printing can environmentally and socially beneficial.

Until October 30, visitors of Essen’s Red Dot Design Museum will have the chance to see 80 groundbreaking 3D printed works of art, design, engineering, and science, in order to learn about how additive manufacturing technology can help individuals, enable social changes, and positively contribute to the environment. The works have been produced by renowned artists, designers, public initiatives, and prestigious research institutions, as well as by unknown innovative makers.

The all-encompassing 3D printing exhibition first appeared at Bozar, the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Materialise. Curated by Marta Malé-Alemany, the traveling exhibition is now set up in the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen, Germany, from where it will move on to further locations.

If Germany is a bit out of the way for you, but you happen to be interested in the curated 3D printed works which showcase how 3D printing can “make a difference,” here is a sneak preview of 12 of the pieces on show at the museum:


WertelOberfell, Matthias Bär

A 3D printed coffee table based on studies on the fractal growth patterns of trees, the Fractal.MGX is based on an early prototype called the “Fractal-T.” The 3D printed table is composed of stems that grow into smaller branches, getting most dense towards the top of the structure, and emphasizes a bond between nature and mathematical formulae. The table was 3D printed as a single piece, without seams or joints, using stereolithography and epoxy resin.


Patrick Jouin

The trailblazing One_Shot.MGX is one of the earliest examples of 3D printed furniture, and still wows spectators with its one-piece assembly. The stool is 3D printed as a complete object with all its hinges, acquiring its final form as soon as it comes out of the printer. The interlocking, overlapping elements of the 3D printed stool demonstrate the unique possibilities afforded by 3D printing: such a design would be impossible to produce using parts created by any other process.

Escapism Dress

Iris van Herpen, Daniel Widrig

The pioneering work of fashion innovator Iris van Herpen is frequently featured on our website. Back in May, the Dutch-born artist created a 3D printed dragon-skin dress, and while any fashion enthusiast would probably seek to escape from the clutches of a dragon, van Herpen’s Escapism Dress deals with new themes, creating intricate geometries around the female body. The dress was made in collaboration with Daniel Widrig, a designer based in London.

Anaplastology Model

Jan De Cubber

Designed for a patient suffering from facial cancer, this piece consists of a 3D Printed attachment made from titanium, used to support a 3D Printed silicon prosthesis placed on the patient’s face. The piece demonstrates how 3D printing is making a huge difference in the medical world, helping patients to recover from ailments with cutting-edge technology. In the case of this particular patient, doctors were required to remove an area of his face that included his right eye, cheek bone, and upper jaw. This procedure left the patient with a severe deformity. Using Materialise software, Belgian anaplastologist Jan De Cubber digitally designed and 3D printed replacement bone, which was put into place with magnetic implants. De Cubber then created the silicone, bone-anchored prosthetic model for the missing soft tissue.

Ti-Join Chair

Peter Donders

The Ti-Join hybrid chair, an assembly of 3D Printed metal joints and carbon fiber tubes, adheres to the principles of lightweight design, with the joints providing rigidity and structural strength using the minimum amount of required material. Donders’ first design for the chair involved casting the frame in a 3D printed sand mold (+/- 1 cubic meter of sand). By redesigning the chair, the 3D print volume was reduced by 95 percent and the weight by 70 percent. The piece now consists of 22 3D printed joints and 9 meters of carbon fiber tubes, making it lighter and stronger. Donders is an experienced furniture designer who now uses CAD for his advanced designs.

FIX3D Bike Frame

James Novak

The FIX3D bike frame is a one-off piece of sports equipment which has used topology optimization to drastically reduce the amount of material required, making it efficient to ride and environmentally friendly in its production. It was designed using lattice structures to make it lighter and stronger than traditional bike frames, and manufactured in one piece. The bike has been customized to fit its designer; in future, riders could commission a custom-made frame like this one, tailored to their measurements and riding style. James Novak is an industrial designer and lecturer at Griffith University in Australia.


Dror Benshetrit

Another piece of 3D printed furniture, this lamp shows how 3D printing can be used to reduce both material and energy costs. The 3D printed lamp consists of a series of articulated parts which require a minimal volume of nylon powder, reducing material volume and machine time. The lamp is printed in a folded state, but can be expanded by hand to its complete volume. The interlocking squares of the lamp are made by applying “QuaDror” pieces to a single, flat, laser-sintered 3D print. The shape of the item creates a warm, subtle glow at the center of the cube that gradually fades into cooler shades as it nears the edges of the piece. Dror Benshetrit is a New York-based designer.


OBL, a Materialise company

This 3D printed skull implant is designed with a porous, intricate, 3D microstructure that facilitates natural bone growth. Using data obtained from CT scans and other processes, medical experts can created customized titanium implants such as this one, tailor-made for an individual patient and therefore best equipped to encourage a speedy recovery. This model is just one of OBL’s PorousTI porous anatomical titanium cranio-maxillofacial implants, and is designed to fill bone defects in the skull resulting from trauma, tumor resections, or malformations.

Helix Tripod

Factum Arte, Giovanni Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the legendary 18th century Italian artist, did not know what a 3D printer was, but his imaginary Helix Tripod, part of his Diverse Maniere design manual, has now been brought into existence via the futuristic technology. Based on the artist’s sketches, Adam Lowe and Madrid’s Factum Arte were able to create a 3D version of the object using ZBrush. The final piece was then 3D printed using an SLS 3D printer, before being cast in bronze and gold plated.

Hearing Aids


3D printing is being used to help the hard-of-hearing through incredible 3D printed hearing aids such as these, created by Phonak, a world leader in hearing aid systems. Partially thanks to 3D printing, over 90% of hearing aids worldwide are now customized to the ear of the user, making them more comfortable and more effective. Phonak and Materialise have worked together to create hearing aids using the  RSM (Rapid Shell Modeling) process, which can be used to create the devices faster and more accurately than ever before.

098XYZ Shoe

Earl Stewart

The 098XYZ shoe is an example of how 3D printing technology and traditional shoe making can be combined to create a technologically advanced yet incredibly stylish footwear product. Earl Stewart, an industrial designer and digital innovator, used 3D scanning to gather important data about bio-mechanic stability and comfort, before using 3D printing to create the lower element of the shoe. This part has been hand-stitched to a leather upper, showcasing the best of old and new.

Screw It Dog

David Graas

Screw It, a collection of small 3D printed objects, can be used to assemble industrial products in a creative way, giving them new meaning and functionality. The project shows how 3D printing can be used to recycle old objects—the Screw It Dog, for example, turns a PET bottle into Jeff Koons-inspired balloon dog in which dry foods can be stored. David Graas studied Product Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, and now works as an independent designer.

The “Making a Difference / A Difference in Making” exhibition at the Red Dot Design Museum began on September 27 and will continue until October 30. Tickets cost €9.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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