3D printing has been an exciting technology for the design landscape with its wide-ranging capabilities and applications. From whole bridges to individual components, 3D printing has unique selling points with the potential to revolutionise product lifecycles, particularly when applied to 3D printing in retail.
A process that often goes hand in hand with environmentalism, the alternative production model offered by 3D printing resonates with many eco-aspirations of companies and suppliers. The reduction of humanitarian welfare issues also enter the conversation when we discuss mostly or fully automated production processes. We take a look at some of the primary reasons 3D printing could have a significant future in retail.
What’s good about 3D printing?
One of the most significant advantages of 3D printing in retail design is the reduction of waste. Traditional manufacturing processes often result in offcuts and excess materials that contribute to environmental concerns. With 3D printing, items are produced layer by layer, minimizing wastage.
On site production reduces the need for extensive supply chains and long transportation routes (cutting emissions). This localization not only saves time and resources but also fosters a sense of connection with the local community.
Adaptation & Personalization:
3D printing enables the creation of bespoke and personalized products for customers. It means production can easily cater to individual preferences, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3D printing allows for on-demand production, meaning products are fabricated only when needed, reducing excess stock, waste, and costs.
‘Factory-Free’ & Improved Labor Conditions:
With the automation offered by 3D printing, the need for extensive manual labor in the production chain decreases. This shift to “factory-free” production has the potential to tackle some of the poor working conditions and employee wellbeing in factories.
Product design case study: Zellerfeld
Innovative brands like Zellerfeld harness 3D printing’s potential to create products with unique selling points. With this technology, products can have a customizable fit tailored precisely to the customer’s measurements and requirements, ensuring maximum comfort and fit.
The 3D printing process of Zellerfeld shoes eliminate traditional weak points like stitching and glue, which may lead to longer-lasting and durable products. Moreover, the machine washability of 3D-printed materials offers convenience without compromising product integrity.
Another key advantage is the ability to produce items on demand, minimizing waste and allowing for customization. Brands like Zellerfeld capitalize on this by collaborating with high-profile pioneers such as PANGAIA and AMBUSH, a collaborative approach that not only fosters innovation but also opens doors for creative partnerships where one partners technology powers the others product.
“The recyclability of the product through the brand draws a parallel with ON running’s new model, which operates more like a subscription model as opposed to a one time purchase, potentially extending customer relationships with brands.”
Retail design case study: Ecoalf
Spanish design studio Nagami has recently completed the interior of a shop for sustainable clothing brand Ecoalf near Madrid. The unique interior elements, including walls, shelves, and display tables, are 3D printed from recycled plastic. Approximately 3.3 tonnes of repurposed plastic waste, mainly sourced from hospitals, were used to create translucent surfaces resembling melting glaciers – carrying the brands environmental message into the stores design and use of materials.
The project was completed within a short period of three months, and it may be the first fully 3D-printed interior using recycled plastic.
“The components used in the interior are designed for disassembly, and the interior materials are fully recyclable, with each plastic piece losing only a tiny 1% of its structural integrity with each recycling process.”
Like all technologies, 3d printing has given birth to its own, uniquely distinctive aesthetic. Here’s just a few visual motifs we’ve seen associated with the technology (and imitated!)
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