PAOLA ANTONELLI: This strange landscape of beautifully sculpted furniture represents the future of manufacturing and design. All of these chairs, lamps, and textiles were made by a 3-D printer.
3-D printing allows a designer to create a chair using a computer program, and then print that design as a real, solid, usable chair. During the printing process, the computer sends data to a machine that uses lasers to solidify powder or liquid resin layer by layer in the shape of the chair, as in a CT scan.
Today, it might take seven days to print this chair, but as the technology improves, it might soon only take seven hours, or seven minutes. As you can imagine, the ramifications of this technology are enormous. It could eliminate the need for supply chains, shipping, warehouses, or wasted materials. We could theoretically do all of our shopping on the Internet, select what we want and have it printed at the 3-D equivalent of our neighborhood Kinko’s.
It could also radically redefine the relationship between designers and consumers because it would allow for an almost infinite customization of products. The designer might create the basic design of a chair and define the boundaries of possible structural and formal change, but consumers would be the ones able to customize it to their own taste.
The possibilities are truly staggering.