We first heard about Plumen, a designer low energy lighting company, two years ago, when it worked with designers at Formaliz3d to develop the 3D printed Kayan lampshade for its ecological light bulbs. Plumen believes that the best way to get people to use energy efficient lighting is to develop low energy light bulbs that they will enjoy looking at, which is why the company re-imagined the simple form of the light bulb in 2010 and turned it into something far less utilitarian and far more eye-catching – the Plumen 001 designer low energy light bulb. Now Plumen is back with more made-to-order, 3D printed shades to combine with its light bulbs, as it introduces its new line of Ruche lampshades.

“It was a real thrill designing out of the constraints of classic production,” Nik Roope, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Plumen, told 3DPrint.com. “Regular construction techniques limit the potential forms we can create enormously. Also, and critically, the economics of mass production means you need to hit large minimum orders, something that always moves you towards ’safer’ shapes and colour ways. Whilst the made-to-order 3D print currently incurs a higher price, all this flexibility adds a lot of value.”

Plumen is focused on using 3D printing technology to bring beauty to lighting, and the Ruche range of intricate shades fits the bill. Plumen worked with engineer and designer Hook Phanthasuporn to explore the many aesthetics and forms that are possible to achieve using a 3D printing process, and the shades were created specifically to complement the company’s expanding variety of designer light bulbs.

Roope said, “3D printing allows a broad vocabulary of form, unconstrained by traditional fabrication techniques.”

The company also wanted to move away from more traditional fabrication techniques for their shades because 3D printing can reduce the amount of pollution that comes from conventional methods and having to transport the product to the end customer.

Even taking into account the rapid turnaround from 3D software and design to a finished product, 3D printing technology can be used to create beautiful artwork and unique designs in products. Plumen wanted to balance practicality with beauty, and create a form for its new lamp shade that was rooted in nature but would not be possible to create through traditional manufacturing.

Plumen clearly favors more organic shapes. The Ruche line is made of repeating strips, which flow from tips into fanned-out fins which move around and cut across each other in complex, yet natural configurations. By adjusting these repeating forms, the 3D printed Ruche lamp shades grow, and the varying shapes have been configured to flow around Plumen’s different light bulbs. You can hardly see the bulb if you’re looking down at the Ruche shade from up above, but reminiscent of a flower, you can see more of it as your eye moves downward; then, the open base of the shade “allows the brightness of the bulb to fully illuminate the surface below.”

Plumen is able to offer its Ruche shades in hundreds of different bespoke colors, thanks to 3D printing – there’s even a cool glow in the dark option. The company has a mission to offer flexible, sustainable designs, so the lamp shades are 3D printed using biodegradable PLA material; shades made out of recycled material are also available upon request. Additionally, since the Ruche shades are made to order and 3D printed locally, there won’t ever be a backlog out of them collecting dust in the back of a warehouse, and fuel will be saved because the shades won’t need to be shipped around the world.

The Ruche shade designs would be perfect for venues looking for cool, offbeat items, like bars, restaurants, and hotels. While last year’s 3D printed Kayan shade design only works with Plumen’s 001 and 002 bulbs, the Ruche designs were designed to work with both of these, as well as the company’s WattNott bulbs.

If you’re in London, you can see the 3D printed Ruche shades for yourself at the Creative Entrepreneurs pop-up shop in Battersea Power Station’s Circus West; the ex-power station used to emit CO2 and soot, but will soon be the new Apple headquarters overseas. You can purchase Ruche Pendant sets, including Plumen light bulbs, online for £150 to £200. You can also visit the company’s website to find other shops that are currently selling Plumen products.

[Images: Plumen]

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