Model No. Deploys Titan Pellet 3D Printers for Sustainable Furniture Production

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Over the years, many designers have tried to create 3D printed polymer furniture. Early pioneers like Janne Kyttanen, Materialise’s MGX, and Joris Laarman have led the way with 3D printed conference tables, chairs, and Dirk van der Kooij’s work using robot arms, showcasing substantial innovation. Since 2020, the design firm Model No. has been using recycled plastic to print furniture. Various types of printers have been employed, from desktop machines where parts are glued together, to robot arms and medium format 3D printers.

Model No. is now using three 3D Systems EXT Titan Pellet Printers to manufacture their furniture. Although the largest items are likely better produced with BAAM printers or robot arms, the EXT uses low-cost pellets in an enclosed build chamber to construct parts within a build volume of 1070 mm x 1070 mm x 1118 mm. Larger systems, often unenclosed, require reinforced materials which can limit surface quality. On the other hand, smaller systems lack sufficient build volume. Thus, the EXT represents a balanced solution for many furniture pieces. Additionally, an inline milling unit can be added to enhance surface finishes, though it significantly increases print times.

The company is using the EXT to print pieces on demand, which significantly benefits the economics. If a customer pays upfront and you don’t need to tie up capital in stock, it should be quite advantageous. At Model No., lead times are 8 to 12 weeks, which may seem lengthy, but the firm indicates this is faster than typical in the furniture industry.

¨Commercial interior turnover occurs about every 5 years according to recent estimates. Most of the furniture for these interiors is made overseas, made from petroleum-based plastics, made with antiquated manufacturing processes, shipped in containers, and stored in huge facilities. After generating masses of harmful carbon emissions and waste, the vast majority of the furniture ends up in U.S. landfills at the end of life. We are addressing systemic change. At Model No. we´ve streamlined the manufacturing process of furniture with the adoption of 3D Systems’ EXT Titan Pellet printers and the usage of bio-resins and non- toxic materials…We make everything on-demand and domestically, or locally when possible. Our customers have the ability to customize their products or order from a pre-designed catalog thus eliminating the need for inventory and wasteful production,” said Model No. CEO Philip Raub.

One innovative approach taken by Model No. is formulating its own pellets and having its own mixes compounded. The company now uses a mix that includes sawdust and PLA, giving it an edge and paralleling the efforts of companies like Gantri and Slant3D, which are also involved in materials formulation and production to gain competitive and cost advantages. Model No. hopes that its products are part of an Endless Loop system, where used furniture can be recycled into new pieces, likely with the addition of some virgin pellets.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the planet yet continue to consume its resources. Demand is growing for solutions that are more sustainable and environmentally responsible. In this context, the local production aspect of Model No.’s operations adds cachet and may even motivate patriotic consumers to support their business. I appreciate what this firm is accomplishing; it seems like a fun, worthwhile business.

While it’s unclear how many consumers will want their designs or how quickly the business can expand, if Model No. can certify their products, demonstrate superior life cycle analysis, and convincingly show they are better for the environment, they are likely to succeed. I can envision applications such as an airline using this furniture for planters or lounge areas to enhance their environmental credentials. Similarly, a bank trying to appear friendly or an insurance company attempting to demonstrate their concern for the environment could use this furniture in their lobbies. I am also a fan of outdoor furniture that is more sustainable.

Model No. seems to be on the right track and I hope they can grow their business quickly and sustainably, setting a precedent for many more sustainable 3D printing enterprises to follow.

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