It may seem paradoxical that a lounge chair entirely made in polyammide – the artificial polymer also known as nylon – is more natural and sustainable than any soft seat made by more traditional manufacturing methods and yet that is exactly the case for the Biomimicry 3D Printed Soft Seat created by design student Lilian van Daal with the support of 3D Systems Benelux.
The soft seat, which is her graduation project, uses 3D printing technology to replicate the way nature gives different properties to different objects by simply modifying their structure. This is the goal of “biomimicry” that is the technique of using algorithms to replicate natural processes and translate them into physical shapes in a way that has been made possible by additive manufacturing technologies. Through biomimicry we will be able to create artificial objects that better resemble nature and, since we are also part of nature, are better fit for us humans as well.
“Biomimicry inspired me a lot”, Lilian told me. “It means learning from nature and I did extensive esearch on how nature is solving problems such as this one. In nature materials grow in different structures and that’s the way a plant, for example, gains different functions. I love the idea of applying this concept to our human world”.
Another significant advantage of this approach is sustainability. Using the biomimicy inspired structure a soft chair can be made from a single material in a single process in a single factory: this mean a lot less waste. “3D printing makes it possible to reproduce these complex structures as a single object”, said Lilian. “ A product can be created from one material in one factory, although it has the properties of various materials. Pollution caused by transport can be minimized and the product is completely recycable”.
The soft seat in these photos is a miniature model measuring 45x45x45cm produced by laser sintering at 3D Systems Benelux but Lilian van Daal is already envisioning multiple commercial applications for 3D printed biomimicry inspired objects and also considering the use of new and even more “natural” materials. “This was a 5 months project and I couldn’t do much research on new or biological materials. For now I used normal PA because it worked best to make both structures that are very rigid and others that are very flexible”, she said. “In general – she added – 3D printing is growing very fast and my hope is that it will be used for useful applications: it is the perfect way to ‘grow’ structures that are not possible to produce in any other way”.