Dec 18, 2017 | By Benedict

Sandhelden, a creator of bespoke bathroom items from Gersthofen, Germany, is using additive manufacturing to create unique 3D printed washbasins, soap dishes, and even bathtubs made from sand. Co-founder and CEO Peter Schiffner told about the company's process.

In all its myriad forms, the digital manufacturing process of 3D printing is enabling homeowners to revolutionize their dwellings with countless unique items—from artwork to chairs to kitchenware. But one area of the home yet to be truly impacted by additive manufacturing is the bathroom, where many items are built into the room and seemingly not fit for customization.

Germany’s Sandhelden, a producer of unique 3D printed sanitary wares, is looking to change the way people think about 3D printing and the bathroom. Its range of spectacular 3D printed items, all made from binder-jetted sand, include 3D printed washbasins, dishes, and vases, and can transform an ordinary-looking bathroom into a veritable modern art collection.

Sandhelden CEO Peter Schiffner, who co-founded the company alongside fellow CEO Laurens Faure, explained to us how the company came about: "We founded the company in late 2014, while I was studying architecture here in Munich. Our first concept was to open a new market while using 3D prints in the sanitary market."

Going from there, Schiffner and Faure started thinking about how they could make 3D printed items for the bathroom, and which materials would be suited to the task. Sand was the company's first choice material, Schiffner says, because it is naturally occurring, because of its thermal properties, and because products made from sand will "always be unique."

At present, Sandhelden sells a number of 3D printed sand products, including a range of washbasins that cost between 1,129 and 1,599 euros, and vases for toiletries that cost between 32 and 149 euros. The company has also developed an amazing 3D printed bathtub, though this item is not currently listed on the company’s online store.

But Sandhelden’s range of offerings goes well beyond what’s listed online. Because the company uses 3D printing to create its products, it is able to produce bespoke designs for individual customers. This means businesses like hotels and spas, as well as individual households, can order a tailor-made design that suits their bathroom(s).

All of these products are fabricated using the company’s in-house 3D printers, at least one of which appears to be an ExOne S-Max machine: “Right now we have three own printers and we are using a ‘direct binding process’ for all of our products,” Schiffner says.

During the process, the sand is mixed with a binding agent before being printed. Afterwards, each 3D printed product is heavily post-processed and a special coating applied to make the product scratch-resistant, UV-resistant, detergent-resistant, and impact-resistant.

Of course, one of the likely reasons why 3D printed bathroom items are so rare is that people are unsure whether something like a 3D printed sink can safely prevent leakages. So how does Sandhelden guarantee that its 3D printed sand products meet the appropriate standards?

“Our quality process is fully automatic,” Schiffner says. “During the process, from the income of an order to the sending of the product, we guarantee high quality by using our internal checklist.”

By doing so, the German company is carving out a niche in both the 3D printing market and the homeware market, something Schiffner is keen to emphasize.

“In the sanitary market we are the first company that works with 3D printers,” the CEO says. This does mean, however, that the company has no clear idea how big the sanitary 3D printing market currently is, or how big it could eventually be.

While creating its unique 3D printed products, Sandhelden did encounter a few problems, the biggest of which was finding the right surface for the bathtubs. Generally, tubs are expected to be smooth, for aesthetic and practical reasons, but this requires some effort when 3D printing with sand.

Excitingly though, the Gersthofen company is actually looking to branch out into new materials beyond sand. Schiffner calls it a “really important project” for the company.

“Over the years my team and I worked on other materials rather than sand, and we found something that could make the world a better place,” Schiffner says.

That discovery was plastic waste in the ocean—things like discarded plastic bottles that are a serious pollutant and which kill marine life all around the world.

“Plastic is a design fault because it never disappears and will always stay on our planet,” the CEO explains. “And the next problem is the fact that, if animals eat plastic, we also eat plastic. So the plastic we produce ends up in our stomachs.”

To fight this problem, and to produce a whole new range of 3D printed sanitary products, Sandhelden has developed its own way of recycling ocean waste and turning it into a 3D printable material.

Schiffner is confident that this new project will be beneficial not only for his fledgling company, but for everyone: “This innovation can help us to clean the oceans, produce green products, and make the world a better place.”

Find out more about Sandhelden here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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