“Stereolithography has enabled us to…imagine, on an industrial level, a new freedom of creation, which would notably emancipate us from the limitations of molds.”[1]  Patrick Jouin

Rarely can furniture—or its manufacturing process—be described as revolutionary. Paris-based Patrick Jouin’s “digital” furniture, however, is an iconic form of our time that also expands the notion of printing! Most furniture is carved, molded, or assembled. Jouin’s designs are “printed.” They are made by rapid prototyping, a three-dimensional printing technology that is pioneering the way objects are being conceived, designed, and produced. Previous historical breakthroughs include wood-bending techniques, tubular steel furniture, and injection-molded plastics.

Three-dimensional printing is efficient (though not always quick) and the product is precise and repeatable. Jouin, in collaboration with the Belgian company, Materialise.MGX, was among the first to experiment with the technology for furniture. Because no molds are used and the material takes shape as determined by electronic code, designers are free to stretch their imaginations and create a world of forms that would otherwise be impossible to fabricate.

The pieces of furniture Jouin has made with this digital process are elegant networks of intersecting lines that resemble sketches of natural structures. In fact, nature’s complexities were the primary inspiration for his Solid Collection of furniture. The poetic inspiration for his Solid C2 Chair was grass: the patterns, shapes, and textures created by crisscrossing blades that grow to seat height, then bend, twist, fold, and turn corners.

Mass-customization, variety, personalization, and reduced production time are factors in today’s designing and manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is still a niche market and, currently, the primary drawbacks are price and speed. But, it is a swiftly evolving technology that offers an alternative to the one-size-fits-all model of mass production. It is an information-driven fabrication system that, as opposed to assembly-line production, offers flexibility and minimal waste.

[1] Rafael Magrou and Francesca Picchi, “Growing by Strata, Patrick Jouin: Solid Collection.” Domus no. 877, January 2005, p. 81.


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