Hot Off The Press
Prestige Hong Kong|October 2017

The 3D printing industry’s most innovative minds are seeking to break convention and rewrite design rules. miki doan and zara zhuang report.

The concept of imagining an object and having it materialise before your eyes at the press of a button is slowly but surely gaining a foothold across the design world. We take a look at some of the most creative pioneers of this emerging medium.

VIRGINIA SAN FRATELLO & RONALD RAEL

Be it environmental activism or social involvement, California-based dynamic duo Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael prove that design generates impact that goes beyond aesthetics. When the world was occupied with the US presidential elections, design might have seemed far from the minds of some. But with a finger on the pulse of societal sentiment and a strong interest in sustainability, San Fratello and Rael turned out Bad Ombré, a series of 3D-printed ceramic vessels that were a direct response to Donald Trump’s suggestion that there were “bad hombres” pouring across the border, then stating his proposal to erect a wall to divide Mexico from the US.

The clay in this collection comes from different regions around the world and is then mixed together. “No Ombré in this collection will ever be recreated exactly the same way,” San Fratello explains. “Failure, individuality, distinct character and unique markings are what make each unique – their differences make them one-of-a-kind but the transience of material binds them together.”

Political issues aside, the duo’s approach to design is strongly influenced by ecological considerations. They explore manufacturing using natural materials in uncommon ways, by developing a formula for 3D printing with powdered wood and additives that turn wood waste into objects. Sawdust Screen, for instance, is fabricated from 3D printed walnut, which retains a layering effect from the manufacturing process, for a surface that mimics natural wood grain. The details are inspired by microscopic imaging of the structure of hardwood, and the screen is composed of 3D printed wood components all carefully fused together. “Because we found a way to use the waste by blending it together in the printer, we are able to produce new wood objects and products without creating any further unwanted waste,” San Fratello adds.

FRANCIS BITONTI

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