After looking to the structure of plants at the cellular level to see how they achieve strength, designer Lilian van Daal says she then used that understanding to develop a chair which can be 3D printed – from a single material – without losing either its stiffness or its comfort.

Lilian vam DaalAfter looking to the structure of plants at the cellular level to see how they achieve strength, designer Lilian van Daal says she then used that understanding to develop a chair which can be 3D printed – from a single material – without losing either its stiffness or its comfort.

Van Daal, a graduate in Industrial Product Design from Arnhem in 2010 and the Postgraduate Course in Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art – The Hague in 2014, has worked for Design Drift, Feiz Design and Bleijh Concept & Design. She started working at StudioMOM in 2010 where she's still on the staff.

The designer's Biomimicry: 3D Printed Soft Seat, is a 3D printed chair made to provide an alternative to conventional upholstered furniture, and she says it does away with the waste and complexity of conventional furniture by eliminating the need for different materials and processes.

"A lot of materials are used in normal furniture production, including several types of foam, and it's very difficult to recycle because everything is glued together. I was testing the flexibility and the stiffness you can get from one material by 3D printing various structures," Van Daal says. "I did lots of experiments with different structures to identify the kind of properties each structure has."

By reducing the density of the material in various areas, she says she found she could create flexible portions of the chair where a user would be seated, and then increased the amount of material throughout the areas of the chair where structural strength is needed.

"When you adjust the structure a little bit, you immediately get a different function," Van Daal said. "In the strong parts, I used as little material as possible, but enough to still have the good stiffness."

After producing a series of prototypes in polyamide material, Van Daal arrived at her final product, but she says her work is not yet complete on the project as she plans to continue her research with an eye toward employing biological materials to make another example of the piece.

Van Daal says that though nature produces a wide variety of strong structural elements, it's not possible to recreate those elements with normal production techniques, but adds that 3D printing allows her to reproduce such complex structures.

The designer hopes to, through the use of a single material, help reduce pollution caused by the need to transport and recycle typical furniture products. She adds that the initial working prototype was created with the help of 3D Systems Benelux.