New technology in the form of Rapid Manufacturing is changing the way designs are delivered from conception to completed product. Using the revolutionary form of printing known as Rapid Prototyping that builds up a 3D object layer by layer of polycarbons, nylon or other materials, Rapid Manufacturing or RM can produce actual prototypes in as little as a few hours. This gives advantages to designers in terms of flexibility throughout the process, a shorter production time-frame with implications for cost reduction, too, and expands the possibilities for mass customization of furniture, lighting, textiles or even architecture.
Taking the process a step further, Belgian firm Materialise
and Dutch architect and designer Lars Spuybroek of NOX have developed
MyLight.MGX lamps, a series of twenty-four different polyamide models, each similar but
unique, that are printed
directly from digital information, doing away with the need for molds. Part of Materialise’s 2007 Private Collection, these lamps are the initial step into a world where consumers could access a design online and customize it to their individual requirements. Or as Spybroek says ‘we could breed
objects like we breed rabbits…’ The lamps were featured in the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at MoMA, New York,
Also shown at MoMA and made by Materialise, Patrick Jouin’s One Shot Folding Stool uses Selective Laser Sintering or SLS to to fuse together small particles of polyamide producing the entire object, seat, legs and articulation, in a single process, layer by layer. When folded the stool is the size of an umbrella, expanded it becomes a full-size stool; the One Shot is both a functional object and a work of art.
Other design companies using Rapid Manufacturing include Freedom of Creation who work in textiles, digitally weaving designs that can easily be customized by shape, color or size to become trendy bags, lampshades, accessories and more.
Although the technology has been around for a few years, the possibilities of Rapid Manufacturing are only just being imagined.