Furniture and affordable design products giant IKEA has been flirting with 3D printing for some time, with prototypes and experimental projects. Now, under the leadership of Olaf Szukałowicz, the furniture giant introduced FLAMTRÄD, the first commercial line of on-demand, 3D printed decorative items, albeit limited to Germany (for now).
The decorative (but also useful) items are all 3D printed using SLS technology. It is available on-demand only and only via the IKEA Germany website. The collection, part of the Deko Accessories lineup, includes several 3D printed designs under the brand FLAMTRÄD, including two different latticed head sculptures and several more hand sculptures. Both are available in either black or white.
Each product is described as taking “3D technology to a new level and guaranteed to catch the eye. Nice on its own, but also in combination with other shapes from the same series”. For sure, the price is competitive enough to bring on-demand 3D printed decorative items to a new level of market availability. The items start at just €29,99, with the most expensive priced at €49,99.
Another project by IKEA involving 3D printing saw the company releasing a series of DIY 3D printed add-ons to make its existing products more accessible to those with special needs. The project, called ThisAbles, was launched by IKEA Israel in an effort to make the company’s iconic home furnishings more easily accessible to people with physical disabilities. The product series consists of add-ons like easy handles, mega switches, glass bumpers, friendly zippers, curtain grippers and more, which can all be downloaded as 3D printable files and printed at home or through a service.
Previously IKEA had collaborated with 3D printed custom prosthetic company UNYQ and Sweden’s Area Academy, working together to create a series of ergonomic products for the gaming community. The products aware meant to address common gamers’ health problems such as carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and more. The first prototypes for the product range were unveiled under the brand UPPKOPPLA.
FLAMTRÄD in the making since 2017
Upon further research, 3dpbm discovered that IKEA had been working on a very similar pilot project back in 2017, when it introduced its first-ever 3D printed objects in the OMEDELBAR collection, a collaboration with stylist Bea Åkerlund. The item, a mesh-inspired stylistic hand to hang on the wall, has all the traits of 3D printing and is very similar to the hand item in the new FLAMTRÄD collection, with a complex design that would not be possible for economic reasons using traditional techniques like injection molding.
The original OMEDELBAR pilot was conducted by IKEA in collaboration with Shane Hassett, CEO of Wazp, a pioneer in 3D printing for mass production. He and his 11 colleagues situated in the small town of Tralee on the west coast of Ireland are among the biggest manufacturers by volume of 3D objects in the world. Today Wazp offers one of the world’s most advanced solutions for real on-demand manufacturing, including consumer-direct production AM capabilities for thousands of parts. The company may also be behind the rollout of the FLAMTRÄD
The Wazp solution is based on demand-driven sales, which refers to the manufacturing of products on-demand, after the sale of the product to the consumer, without over or underproduction, with the ultimate goal of achieving a supply-demand equilibrium. Products are digitized, creating new products or redesigning existing, tangible products into digital products to be manufactured into physical products on-demand. This leads to a decentralization of manufacturing, through strategically placed manufacturing facilities, that can reach the customer directly (via D2C business models). This sustainable supply ensures the products and processes are resource-efficient and more environmentally conscious.
At the time of the OMEDELBAR pilot project, Shane Hassett had made an accurate prediction, saying that “in a couple of years, we expect to see a hybrid of manufacturing and distribution facilities dotted around the globe. We will be able to stream products directly to the point of need of IKEA and their customers – just imagine a “post office” type model 2.0. We have all we need today to create a solution for it; now it is just a matter of time.”
That time may now have come.