Custom Furniture Printed for Your Home


by Steve Streetman

n February I wrote about 3D printed houses and how they can help to address the affordable housing crisis while also being unique and beautiful works of art. But the technology has widespread applications beyond houses. Already today there are companies creating stylish furnishings that are 3D print- ed. And many of these objects can be printed from sustainable materi- als like hemp, mushrooms, coffee, or recycled materials. What are the implications for home design once these technologies go mainstream? There are reasons why most hous- es are rectangular. First is because the raw materials (lumber and bricks) are rectangular. Second is that the items that go in the spaces (couches, tables, cabinets, applianc - es, windows) are usually rectangu - lar. Having curved walls and straight furniture makes for awkward and wasted spaces. But as houses move toward 3D printing and it becomes just as easy and inexpensive to create beautiful curves for the walls, we can follow—literally—the same mold for furniture. Imagine a couch or bed headboard that is curved exactly the same as the wall so that it fits per - fectly. You might even design them to interlock like jigsaw puzzle pieces to increase stability. The 3D printed furniture would be much less expen- sive than traditional furniture. And it could be printed on demand in a few I

hours. You can create furniture to fol - low any historical style you want. You could scan and create a 3D model of an antique for reproduction via 3D printing. Or you can create very mod- ern looking furniture that fits human contours or explores new ideas for how furniture should work or fit. Printing furniture to match your house configuration is the ultimate in customization. Have a bow window? Print a curved window seat with exactly the same curve as the win- dow. Have an S-curved wall? Maybe an S-curved bookcase can snug- gle up to it. You could print curved kitchen cabinets to line your curved kitchen while providing rectangular spaces for your appliances. Since each 3D print is programmed into a computer it would be possible to customize furniture to your par- ticular needs or size. I am 6’8” (203 cm) tall and always have trouble with chairs, couches, tables, and desks. Chairs aren’t usually deep enough to support my knees and couch- es are so low that my knees are up around my ears when I sit down. And desks? I am the only person I know who wears out his pants on top of the thigh because the material rubs the bottom of the desktop. A 3D printed solution could fit me perfectly with - out having to stock a myriad of sizes at a furniture store. Beyond fitting custom sizes, it would be cheap and easy to make custom applications so

you can arrange your office or bed - room any way you want. Other features of 3D printed furni- ture make it a good choice for home design. First is that it can be made from sustainable materials. To make wood furniture you have to have planted the tree decades ago and you must make sure you continue to plant as you harvest. 3D furniture made from hemp can be grown in a season and can be grown again next season. Materials may also be recycled to make furniture. A whole industry is growing to use a wide variety of recy- cled material in 3D printing including mushrooms and coffee. (As much coffee as I drink, I could recycle a whole bedroom suite). Some of these materials create interesting textures but I am told any scents go away during the process. 3D printed furniture is often much lighter than wood furniture and, depending on the material and extru- sion process, may be sturdier. But we will need lots of research and testing to determine best practices for cre- ating well made, sturdy furniture that can stand up to a beating, repeated moves, and the abuse that furniture often takes. But there are 30-pound full size couches and chairs that weigh a couple of kilograms. One of the primary design benefits of 3D printing is the intricacy that can be created with the same effort as a blocky traditional design. To pay

58 | think realty magazine :: july 2021

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