Interior Design, 3D Printing and R&D Tax Credits


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Interior designers and architecture firms with interior design departments have been one of the most active users of 3D printers. 3D printers are utilized by these particular designers mainly during planning and development phases. The investment in a printer allows designers to generate prototypes of potential designs and determine if the design is functional, as well as, aesthetically pleasing. These innovative machines have helped paved the way for interior designers to develop new and creative designs.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Technological in nature
  • Elimination of uncertainty
  • Process of experimentation

Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.


Print the Future is a startup which launched a Manhattan pop-up shop in 2016. The company wanted to give the public a glimpse into the possibilities of 3D printing and the creation of 3D printed furniture. The store contains a section where customers can see the development and printing of a piece of furniture. The store held 3D printed furniture composed of 100% recyclable materials which were sold at a price range of $500-$1,500. This store offered interior designers the ability to easily purchase customized furniture which is unique and sustainable.[i]

There are many advantages of utilizing a 3D printer in the interior design industry. Interior designers can develop prototypes, as well as, finalized products of furniture for a client’s space. For example, designers may create unique designs for furniture such as chairs and tables.

MIT has a Self-Assembly Lab which has collaborated with Steelcase, which is a company that sells office furniture. Both teams worked together to develop a new 3D printing technique known as Rapid Liquid Printing. The process consists of utilizing gel and liquid plastic to create custom designs at a fast pace. The liquid plastic cures and hardens within the gel to create the intended design. The process has been experimented with to create Steelcase’s Turnstone Bassline Table. With the utilization of this new printing process, designers have an alternative method of providing personalized tables for clients.[ii]

A designer, Patrick Jouin, created a chair called the One Shot Stool. The 3D printed stool was designed to easily fold when it isn’t needed. When the chair is needed, it fans out into a simple hourglass shape. The stool provides versatility while offering a modern aesthetic for users.[iii] 3D printers give designers the opportunity to experiment with developing innovative furniture pieces.


One of the benefits of 3D printing is that it is easy for interior designers to create customized and unique product designs for their clients. Although interior lighting is meant to serve the purpose of providing adequate lighting for a user, lighting can also represent an aesthetic element and affect how a room may look or feel. 3D printed lamps can be composed of various shapes, sizes and distinctive designs.  For example, some designs may contain cutouts to allow light to shine through, be composed of a rectangular or circular shape, or the exterior shell may be of a certain color.[iv]

Custom Objects

Britto Charette is a company based in Miami, Florida who focuses on interior design and is involved with building custom pieces for clients. The company specifically began building small sculptures and vases to incorporate into their interior design plans. Britto Charette recently purchased a 3D printer, in particular Formlabs Form 2 SLA, to create prototypes of units before they are finalized. Before utilizing a 3D printer the company would use clay and a carving wheel to produce prototypes which was an intensive process. After purchasing the printer, the company was able to save a significant amount of time and money resulting in a more efficient workflow.[v]

Door Handles

Scientists from The Hasso-Plattner Institut in Germany have collaborated to produce a 3D printed door handle and latch component. Scientists utilized a 3D editing software to generate the appropriate size and positioning of cells to create a functional unit. The unit is able to function due to the use of metamaterial mechanisms which are essentially triggered by a chain action. The door handle and latch are interconnected through a grid of flexible sheared cells. When the handle is turned, the cells mechanically move to pull the latch in and unlock the door.[vi]

3D Printing in Universities

Many university interior design programs have begun to integrate 3D printers into their educational courses. Classes provide students with the knowledge and tools to utilize 3D printers in order to create new designs for rooms and spaces. Students are also educated on utilizing associated software programs, such as Photoshop, SketchUp, Illustrator and InDesign, which are normally used to develop designs before they are finalized and printed.

Randolph Community College[vii] in North Carolina decided to purchase a new 3D printer to prepare students for working in the interior design industry. The college invested in a Matrix 3D printer for students to use where they can gain and refine their 3D modeling and printing skills. This particular printer is affordable, has a user-friendly interface, an efficient speed and generates detailed models.[viii]

Florida State University in Florida also acquired a 3D printer to incorporate new technology into interior design courses. The university utilizes a [easyazon_link identifier=”B0183TP806″ locale=”US” tag=”3dprint09-20″]Makerbot Replicator[/easyazon_link] 5th generation 3D printer which functions through fused deposition modeling (FDM). The use of 3D printers encourages students to engage with new technology, as well as, utilize their creativity to develop new designs. Some companies in the interior design industry are transitioning towards more modern technology, such as 3D printing, digital software and laser cutters and with the knowledge of 3D modeling and printing students will be able to succeed in this particular industry.[ix]


3D printers can change the design process for interior designers by decreasing the amount of time and labor spent on developing new designs. There are various types of affordable 3D printers available for interior designers to purchase in order to create prototypes and analyze potential designs. 3D printers give interior designers the tools to develop unique concepts and create new pieces for clients making designers eligible to receive R&D tax credits.


[i] Alice Bonasio. “You Can Now Get 3D Printed Designer Furniture that Won’t Break the Bank.” Fast Company & Inc. March 13, 2017. Available at:

[ii] Barbara Eldredge. “MIT’s New 3D Printing Technique Can Produce Furniture in Minutes.” Vox Media, Inc. April 25, 2017. Available at:

[iii] Nathaniel Berman. “How 3D Printing is Turning the Furniture Business Upside Down.” Architizer, Inc.  July 5, 2016. Available at:

[iv] “3D Printed Lamps: How to Freshen Up the Very Conception of Interior Lighting.” Available at:

[v] “Enhancing Interior design with 3D Printing.” Formlabs, Inc. Available at:

[vi] Tamar Melike Tegun. “This 3D Printed Door Handle Works with No Moving Parts.” Interesting Engineering. September 16, 2016. Available at:

[vii] Bridget Millsaps. “Ready for Career Success: North Carolina Interior Design Students Gain valuable Skillsets in 3D Printing.” 3DR Holdings. February 25, 2016. Available at:

[viii] “Matrix 300+” Mcor technologies. Available at:

[ix] “What is 3D Printing?” Florida State University Libraries. Available at:

Charles Goulding and Lauren Chin of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing and the interior design industry. 













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