Art fairs are getting creative and launching new experiences for visitors. For example, during the 20th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach – the centerpiece of the city’s widely acclaimed Art Week Miami Beach – a zero-waste, 3D printed installation of unique furnishing designs made its debut at the Solana Embassy in the Wynwood District. The limited collection exhibition entitled Endless Loop: From Waste to Wanted will run through December 13, 2022, and each piece in the installation can be purchased as a one-of-a-kind collectible item.
Born out of a need to point out the environmental harm caused by neglectful manufacturing practices in the furnishings business, the creative exhibition is a multi-artist furniture collaboration between Oakland-based sustainable furniture design and manufacturing company Model No., female-founded design studio Prowl and Korean-inspired artist Mike Han.
Bonded by their joint mission, the installation features one-of-a-kind stools and tables designed by Prowl, standing sculptures and pendant lighting by Model No., and a monolith by Han.
Showcased against a contrasting white backdrop is a fluted table and stool set created by Prowl designers Lauryn Menard and Baillie Mishler. The pieces were made from salvaged hardwood and collected sawdust up-cycled into PLA pellets for 3D printing.
Utilizing CNC carving and 3D printing with ash, Han created a zero-waste sculptural object. Typically working with painted linework, the collaboration challenged Han to try different mediums and technologies, which are entirely new to him as art.
The third piece of geometrically shaped standing sculptures combined traditional milling and craftsmanship with 3D printing technology to make something functional and desirable from something left as waste. Award-winning Model No. Principal designer Mike Vance also turned to ash hardwood and bioresins upcycled from sawdust fuse to balance a modern aesthetic and a sense of playfulness without compromising functionality in his piece.
While standing alone, each piece shares a similar circular aesthetic that echoes the group’s mission of circular manufacturing. This is achieved through technology, art design, and manufacturing.
Harnessing a circular economy
Through its compelling vision, the products present a path to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint by employing local, circular and digital manufacturing practices to design and produce stylish and sustainable furnishings.
Amid growing interest in sustainably sourced materials and zero waste manufacturing processes, the team engaged local lumber mill Arborica to custom produce each piece exclusively using fallen trees, sawdust, and upcycled plant waste which was sourced just a short distance from the Model No. microfactory in California’s Bay Area.
Commenting on its unique materials sourcing, Model No. ‘s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Jeffrey McGrew told 3DPrint.com that for this project, Model No. partnered with Arborica to tap into its specialized enterprise in locally salvaged and urban harvested wood and decided to source a rescued Ash tree for the project.
“We used the tree in all of the pieces, even the signage at our installation in Miami. We recaptured the sawdust and turned it into a proprietary bioresin that we then used to 3D print other aspects of the pieces. For example, in Mike Han’s Monolith, we used the sawdust from cutting out the shapes on one side of the monolith to then use that same wood dust to form the bioresin to print the shapes on the opposite side. So nothing was wasted,” highlighted McGrew.
Not only were the materials readily available to the designers – proving that the shift to a circular economy doesn’t have to be very difficult – but the choice of 3D printing technologies to create customizable objects was ideal.
Taking advantage of Model No. ‘s Oakland microfactory, the group made every item in-house with pellet-extrusion-based FDM printers and bioresins from various partners, including Titan Robotics and Massive Dimension. Additionally, the team took advantage of its in-house five-axis CNC subtractive capabilities, described McGrew.
In particular, the team saw an opportunity in a clean process like 3D printing. Not only was additive technology ideal for these customizable pieces, but it sped up time from early prototypes to final pieces. McGrew explained that while the conversations around the design of the pieces were ongoing and extensive, everything in the Endless Loop series was physically made in about three and a half weeks.
“Working via digital fabrication greatly accelerates the prototype-to-final product process, and our digital-heavy workflow lets us fully develop many designs without physical prototypes even being needed,” suggests the architect who’s had plenty of experience adapting 3D printing techniques to furniture design and production.
For example, the Endless Loop monolith entitled “Full Circle,” designed by Han was printed in just a few days using two machines run by a single person (who was also running other prints on other devices). With additive fabrication, printers can run full-time on their own, and there’s no setup downtime to change to make the next part so that every piece can be unique without the added cost. This empowered McGrew and his team to produce custom elements like this efficiently with much less labor.
From waste to 3D printed furniture art
Aside from the highly beneficial circular economy factor, the furnishings will be the only items of their kind, so the rarity of these pieces is undoubtedly convincing to quite an entire target audience. Additionally, McGrew indicated that these are “signature pieces from rising star artists and designers,” making it an opportunity to collect one of their early works.
“The intricate engineering on their inside and the additive technology used to make them betray their simplicity on the outside. It’s hard to avoid the overall story of these pieces, but you get all of this with each piece,” he went on.
With innovation at the forefront, the collaborative also traverses the physical form into digital art by presenting an animated NFT (non-fungible token) collectible in partnership with Solana, a carbon-neutral blockchain. According to McGrew, the endless loop story had so much potential to tell a powerful visual story about transforming waste into something beautiful that we can covet that the team thought visitors would enjoy seeing the pieces as coveted NFT items. For this aspect of the project, they teamed up with UK 3D motion artist Natalie Liu, who was inspired by the collaboration’s mission.
Although the designers didn’t plan to make and sell additional prints of these items, they do create custom work for clients in residential, corporate, and hospitality who want to custom design solutions that are responsibly made and healthy for the planet. In addition, through bespoke projects, the team can bring all of this nuance to other works, especially now that McGrew anticipates the designers will again team up for different undertakings.
In the meantime, visitors can stop by Solana Embassy at 215 NW 24th St in Miami, Florida, from November 29 through December 13, 2022, or contact Model No. directly for any purchasing options.
3DPrint.com and SmarTech Analysis are hosting Additive Manufacturing Strategies in New York City, February 7-9, 2023. Register for the event here to learn from and network with the most exciting companies and individuals in AM.
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