Consumer 3D printing is an interesting sector at the moment. While some areas, like 3D printed eyewear, may feel a bit saturated, others are almost completely untapped. German company Sandhelden is a good example of a company seeking to leverage 3D printing in a pretty unique way: by offering a collection of design-oriented 3D printed washbasins.
Sandhelden was founded in 2014 in Luebeck, Germany by a team of people who sought to explore additive manufacturing in a new and innovative way. Four years down the road and the company has certainly succeeded in doing something interesting with sand-based and other types of 3D printing. We spoke to Carlos del Castillo González from Sandhelden’s product design team to learn more about the business.
Tess Boissonneault: Could you give us a bit of background about Sandhelden?
Carlos del Castillo González: Back near the end of 2014 the company was founded by several people with different professional backgrounds (one of them being our current CEO, Laurens Faure). We knew that 3D printing offered infinite technical and aesthetic possibilities. It was this knowledge paired with the fact that the bathroom fittings market only offered standardized washbasins that led us to founding Sandhelden with the aim of offering customized solutions to this problem.
TB: What 3D printing technology do you rely on in your business? And what type of sand do you use?
CdCG: We just Binder Jetting technology for our washbasins, a process which deposits a liquid binding agent over powdered sand particles, layer by layer.
After much development, the choice of material was decided: quartz sand. Since the beginning, we have used quartz sand as a raw material which, due to its properties, has a high stability and endows the final model with a unique texture. The material we use has the ideal prerequisites for being used with our 3D printing technology (it can be shaped into many conceivable forms) and its post-processes. This enables us to adapt our product to a wide range of different customer needs.
The material itself mainly comes from Turkey and is supplied by a company that takes care of the specific characteristics that the sand needs to be suitable for the printing process.
TB: And what are the post-processing steps involved in producing the final products?
CdCG: Once the piece is printed, the excess sand is removed from the object, which is then checked for irregularities. In the next step of detail finishing and quality inspection, the product is cleaned with air pressure guns and brushes until not a single loose grain of sand remains.
The surface finishing and coating is the final step in the production process. The coating creates a resistant surface against scratches and chemical cleaning agents. This whole process also gives every washbasin its individual colour, texture and appearance.
TB: What does the Sandhelden facility consist of?
CdCG: Our production is separate from our office spaces. The production facility is based in Gersthofen and our office is in Munich. Regarding the operation details, the machines are able to print 60 washbasins one go within 24 hours. This excludes any kind of post-processing. Depending on the production volume, we can use up to two 3D printers at the same time.
TB: Sandhelden offers a configurator platform on its website that lets clients customize their sinks. Can you say anything about the designs offered?
CdCG: All of our washbasins were designed in-house. Our goal during the design process was to maintain a specific design language that presents the Sandhelden brand and its key values. We focused ourselves on the possibilities of product individualization by creating our configurator.
Our current washbasins that appear in the configurator (the SKANDIKA Collection) are highly inspired by Scandinavian design.
TB: What is product turnaround time for clients? And where would you say most of your clients are based?
CdCG: From placing the order till the delivery, it takes around 3 weeks (depending on where it has to be shipped).
Most of our clients are based in Germany and Scandinavian countries. In the last months, however, we have seen an increasing growth rate in sales in North America and we also sent various products there.
TB: Does Sandhelden exclusively produce washbasins?
CdCG: Since we started with washbasins, they have always been one of our beloved products. We centered our company around them and put a lot of effort into entering the market of bathroom furniture.
Over recent months, we started 3D printing our own lamps and we are continuing to expand our product portfolio.
Since the beginning of this year we have also been working as a service provider, offering our technology to different clients from various sectors. We noticed that we had the opportunity to offer people innovative solutions in different backgrounds. So far, we have started 3D printing sand cores (e.g. foundry molds), large technical models (e.g. architecture models) and have been exploring infiltration processes to gain usability of printed products (such as home interiors, statues, artworks).
Finally, we have also been working on new material developments. (We currently have several research projects where we try to convert materials such as recycled plastics or carbon into materials suitable for our binder jetting technology.)
TB: That is interesting you are working with sand cores.
CdCG: We do have some small clients from this sector, but we focus ourselves on making products that are usable more than once thanks fo our post processes. The sand core market is highly competitive and quite difficult to enter. Then, in terms of production, there are big industrial companies that have an exclusive focus on this market.
TB: What have been the benefits of working with 3D printed sand for Sandhelden?
CdCG: First of all, the size. With a production space of up to 4 x 2 x 1 m, we are one of the world’s largest suppliers of 3D sand printing. The creation of one-piece products out of the same printer in these sizes with conventional AM processes is almost unthinkable.
Then, the speed. Our team manages an order within 24 hours from a file to the printed product. It’s a little attached to the size. For example, the time it takes to print a piece of such oversized dimensions with another type of technology is much longer.
And finally in terms of cost efficiency, Binder Jetting means printing with one of the most economical technologies of the 3D printing market.
TB: What will Sandhelden be exhibiting at Formnext? What can visitors expect?
CdCG: At Formnext, we will present ourselves as a personal service provider for 3D sand printing and post-processing. Our goal is to support and to advise our clients throughout their different projects with a highly customer-oriented focus.
We want our visitors and potential clients to discover the possibilities that our process offers and let them take advantage of it. We will present different projects that we successfully achieved.
Furthermore, we are taking part in the final stage of the purmundus challenge on the 15th of November. It´s an international competition for groundbreaking 3D printing ideas in the field of product design. There, we will compete against many other innovative ideas with three of our latest projects: “Voronoi Lamp,” “The Neptun Project,” and “The first bathtub printed out of sand.”