May 18, 2017 | By Tess

A team from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London has unveiled its latest creation: a robotically 3D printed chair, designed using an innovative 3D printing software that models structures using a continuous line. The so-called Voxel Chair was realized by members of Bartlett’s Design Computational Lab (DCL).

While 3D printed chairs may seem to be becoming a regular occurrence, we can’t help but get excited about them, especially as they are often used to demonstrate some truly impressive 3D designs and printing techniques. For instance, Team CurVoxels, operating out of Bartlett's Design Computational Lab, has often turned to 3D printed chairs to showcase its stunningly intricate building structures.

Over a year ago, we saw the CurVoxels team use its innovative robotic arm 3D printing technique to create a set of chairs called “Spatial Curves." Now, after some refinement and advancements to their process, we have the pleasure of laying our eyes (and perhaps one day our behinds) on the Voxel chair.

What sets the Voxel chair apart from other 3D printed pieces is that it is not built up layer by layer, but rather is constructed using a continuous line of material. Using the DCL’s voxelized 3D models as a guide, a robotic arm extrudes a continuous line of plastic, which hardens as it cools.

The technique does not just provide an aesthetic function; it also enables designers to integrate specific functions and properties into the piece they are printing. For instance, designers have a higher level of control over a piece's internal our outer structure, which means they can make certain parts stronger for load bearing without massively increasing the weight of the object or the amount of material used.

"This approach is not only more functional in terms of performance, but it also offers designers opportunities to really work directly with incredible amounts of data," added DCL's co-directors Manuel Jiménez Garcia and Gilles Retsin. "Instead of designing the form of the chair, you design the behaviours and properties of the material directly.”

The recently unveiled Voxel Chair (version 1.0) is actually a prototype created by the DCL team to showcase its technology. The chair’s shape, which was inspired by Danish designer Verner Panton's iconic Panton chair, was 3D printed from a blue-tinted biodegradable PLA and is made up of 2.36 kilometers of plastic.

As the team points out, it is the chair’s intricate construction that makes it notable, not it’s Panton-inspired shape. "This may look like a Panton chair, but it's actually completely different," they explained. "The Panton chair was a pure surface, optimized to mould. This chair is the opposite: a cloud-like volume, optimized for robotic extrusion.”

The software used to create the Voxel Chair could give designers unprecedented control over a 3D printed object’s tool path. That is, rather than simply slice the object into layers, as most 3D printing software programs do, the DCL software builds the object itself from a continuous line that a robotic arm can follow.

"As designers we can't usually control these or use these tool paths themselves as a medium to design with—its a very top-down process," said Jiménez Garcia and Retsin, both members of the DCL. "Our software allows designers to bypass this, and immediately design with the tool paths themselves, which gives you access to much more detail and control."

Whether the innovative design program will become commercially available is not yet clear, but we certainly see potential in the Bartlett team’s innovative approach to functional design.



Posted in 3D Design



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CarbonUnit wrote at 5/18/2017 8:16:14 PM:

Thanks for not calling it "stunning"

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