Lilian van Daal's 3D-printed Biomimicry chair
shows off "a new way to create soft seating"

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: Dutch designer Lilian van Daal claims 3D-printing can replace traditional upholstery techniques to produce spongy-surfaced furniture in this movie filmed in Eindhoven.

Traditional upholstered furniture
Traditional upholstered furniture

Van Daal is investigating alternative production methods for upholstered furniture, which is usually very resource-intensive to make.

Traditional upholstered furniture
Production of traditional upholstered furniture

"Soft seating usually consists of several different materials [and] it's all glued together, which is a problem for the recyclability of a product," she explains in the movie.

"You need five or six different factories [to produce conventional upholstered furniture]. But with 3D printing you can produce very locally and you don't have material waste in the production process; you only use the material you need."

Biomimicry 3D-printed Soft Seat by Lilian van Daal

At Dutch Design Week, where the movie was filmed, Van Daal presented prototypes of a 3D-printed chair called Biomimicry, which, despite being printed entirely from plastic, features a flexible seat and a rigid base.

Plant cells
Plant cells

Van Daal was able to create these varying zones of stiffness by imitating plant cell structures in the natural world.

Biomimicry 3D-printed Soft Seat by Lilian van Daal

"In nature a material grows in different structures and this is how functions are created," she explains. "3D printing is also a way to 'grow' material, so I've used this solution to create a new way of soft seating with several different functions in one material."

Biomimicry 3D-printed Soft Seat by Lilian van Daal

She continues: "The chair is made from nylon, a normal 3D-printing material. When you adjust the structure a little bit, it's easy to create different zones of flexibility."

Biomimicry 3D-printed Soft Seat by Lilian van Daal

Van Daal admits there is lot of work to do before her chair is ready for market and she is currently researching how to take the project forward.

"I have to develop it further," she says. "I also want to do more research on using biological materials [instead of plastic]."

Lilian van Daal portrait
Lilian van Daal

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers is an ongoing collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.

The music in the movie is a track called Family Music by Eindhoven-based hip hop producer Y'Skid.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers

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  • christian gehrig

    Exactly. While I really like the design, material fatigue is going to be the main problem with this one-piece approach. You will not be able to replace the parts that are worn out. The strain on chairs is usually quite heavy, so that object will be rendered unusable after some years (probably much less) of use. Where is the practicability in such a piece? It seems too much like a proof of concept. However, it does seem to be at the beginning.

  • I love this chair visually and the technology of its production, but agree with the other posts in terms of its long term wear/replaceable parts.

    I hope Van Daal sticks to her research with biodegradable materials. Frank Gehry’s dense cardboard chairs wear but that seems to makes them more comfortable.

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