Since as early as 2014, Dutch designer Lilian van Daal has sought to combine digital manufacturing practices, such as 3D printing, with bioinspired design to create stunningly complex and original pieces of furniture and art. The Arnhem-based designer recently presented her latest project: a 3D printed chair called Radiolaria #1, which showcases the amazing potential of turning to nature for structural design inspiration.
In nature, Radiolaria are unicellular organisms found as zooplankton in the ocean. The name Radiolaria comes from the radial symmetry of the organisms’ skeletal spines, which served as inspiration to van Daal’s project. By mimicking and scaling up the structure of Radiolaria, the designer was able to create a chair structure which showcases amazing properties, such as flexibility and foam-like comfort.
Van Daal also drew inspiration from Bryozoa organisms, which are moss animals that live in tropical waters and freshwater environments that have a unique lattice-like skeletal structure. This structure was appropriated by van Daal who created a series of connection points for the chair which enabled it to be assembled without glue or other non-3D printed materials. Overall, the designer says the chair’s structure was inspired by the symmetry of the unicellular organisms.
“The intricate shapes of flowers. The mesh-networks of fungi. The perfect geometry of organisms. They have been crafted, remodelled and burnished during billions of years of biological trial and error,” said van Daal. “Implementing their unique and meticulous properties in design has been difficult, but recent technology has fuelled possibilities for new development of products and systems.”
The Radiolaria #1 chair was 3D printed in cooperation with Dutch 3D printing service Oceanz, which supplied the sole material for the piece, recycled polyamide (PA 12) powder, and utilized its state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies to manufacture the chair.
Since van Daal 3D printed her first piece of furniture—the Biomimicry Soft Seating project in 2014—the designer has leveraged continually advancing 3D printing technologies and design opportunities to make her projects not only more complex and refined, but also more efficient. For instance, Radiolaria #1 reportedly took 50% less time to manufacture as the Biomimicry Soft Seating and required 50% less energy consumption consequently.
These significant reductions were in part due to the ability to optimize the chair design so that all parts of the chair could be 3D printed in a single production run. Notably, advancements in materials research have also enabled the chair to be printed entirely from recycled materials—specifically Oceanz EcoPowder.
Erik van der Garde, CEO of Oceanz 3D Printing, commented on the project collaboration with van Daal saying: “Oceanz invests a lot in research to realize a sustainable production process. This has led to the introduction of Oceanz EcoPowder. This sustainable material has almost the same characteristics as the standard Oceanz PA12.
“By reusing the 3D printing material, we have virtually no waste stream from our old powder and we can process our material sustainably. This makes 3D printing/prototyping a very sustainable production technique. This doesn’t only give you a good feeling, but also the functional properties of the material remain the same. The zero-waste promise is also redeemed.”