Biomimicry chair by Lilian van Daal replaces
traditional upholstery with 3D-printed structure


Design graduate Lilian van Daal has developed a conceptual chair influenced by plant cells that could be 3D-printed from a single material (+ slideshow).

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

Van Daal's Biomimicry: 3D-printed soft seat is designed as an alternative to conventional upholstered furniture, which requires several different materials and processes to create the frame, padding and covers.

"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," Van Daal told Dezeen.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

The designer began to look at ways of printing structures that behave differently depending on how material is distributed, enabling some sections to be soft and others to be rigid.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

"I was testing the flexibility and the stiffness you can get from one material by 3D-printing various structures," said Van Daal. "I did lots of experiments with different structures to identify the kind of properties each structure has."

In particular, Van Daal looked to nature for inspiration and examined the properties of plant cells, which are able to perform several different tasks.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

Reducing the density of the material would create more flexible areas for seating, while the amount of material could be increased where greater structural strength is required.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

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

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

Van Daal produced a series of prototype structures printed from polyamide but claimed she is currently researching the potential of using biological materials that would be more sustainable.

Producing furniture using this method could also reduce emissions from transportation typically required to move materials and products around during the production process, as the furniture would be printed in one place.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

The shape of the chair was modelled manually using 3D computer modelling software, but the designer pointed out that there is more sophisticated optimisation and stress analysis software available which could enable her to create forms that distribute material in the most efficient way.

Biomimicry 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal

The concept for the chair was created by Van Daal for her graduation project from The Hague's Royal Academy of Art and the designer is speaking to leading furniture brands about developing the project further.

  • Good amount of space for storing dust inside…

    • Donnie Darko

      There is no reason that you can’t either 3D print a covering or upholster this in the traditional way. These are a structural proof of concept and don’t necessarily need to be exposed structures.

  • wat

    I don’t get the whole “they are talking to manufacturers about taking it further” part. You see in a lot of student and graduate work where the design is self-explanatory and they have, and often could never have, patents or intellectual property rights on the design.

    If a manufacturing company wanted to make something like this then they would, and without paying her a penny.

  • Design crimes

    Yawn, another chair. No matter how structurally interesting, this is just another chair, but wait, this one could be different!

    Nope, four legs, a seat and a back. It’s another chair. Meh. You could take this technology and apply it to so many products to help solve a multitude of problems and what did you decide to do? Create another chair with the same form as 100 others.

    I think we have enough chairs; we are drowning in chair design. If all the design energy put into chairs was instead turned to solving far more urgent or rewarding problems, we would all be richer for it.

    • Joggl

      It does not matter if it is a chair or something else, the chair is the canvas. Also, I do not get people that say there are enough chairs out there. That’s like saying there are enough songs or recipes out there, we should stop making new ones.

      As long as it is interesting and new, why not? By the way, her work was one of the most interesting for me at Lambrate this year.