The Role of 3D Printing in Interior Design

Published on September 1, 2023 by Madeleine P.
3D printing in interior design

As we see 3D printing used in more and more industrial sectors, the question remains: what role does it play in everyday life? Is it able to influence our everyday environment? Looking at the use of 3D printing in interior design, the possibilities offered by 3D technologies are clear. When they first came into use, polymers were mainly favored, but advances in research and development have enabled big changes in this field – for example materials such as sand, wood or marble are becoming more popular. Indeed, in this sector creativity rules surpeme, and that’s why 3D printing is the ideal option, as it gives free rein to the imagination. Here, we look at how this synergy between additive manufacturing and creativity is gaining ground in the fields of design and architecture.

Interior design is the discipline of shaping the experience of interior space. This is done through the manipulation of spatial volume and surfaces. It can be present in all parts of the home, including bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. Meanwhile, objects that can be 3D printed for interior design purposes include furniture, chairs, tables, lamps, bathroom accessories, decorative objects and more. The variety of objects that can give your home the touch and detail you crave is very wide. Moreoever, the use of additive manufacturing can increase both sustainability and customization in home projects.

a sink from Sandhelden

A 3D-printed washbasin made from sand (photo credits: Sandhelden)

The Benefits of 3D Printing in Interior Design

One of the advantages of additive manufacturing is the ease with which you can design almost any part you can imagine; 3D printing offers design freedom with very few limits. And you don’t have to be a manufacturer to take advantage of this – even those who with a 3D printer at home benefit from this! Other advantages of 3D printing in interior design include the ability to print large volumes on XXL machines, as well as small and medium-sized runs, all with flexibility and speed.

Sandhelden, for example, is a German company that uses 3D printing to design bathroom furniture. “We are not subject to minimum order quantities. On the largest printer, we’re able to print around 150 washbasins in a print box in less than 24 hours. So it doesn’t matter if all the washbasins are identical, or if each one is a slightly different size”, they explain. Another aspect that also characterizes 3D printing is its commitment to the environment, but we’ll come back to that in more detail later.

Which 3D Technologies Are Used in Interior Design?

There are many different printing processes, and no single technology is best suited to interior design. To choose the right one, you need to take into account a number of aspects, such as the desired finish, the compatible material or the final application. Taking a closer look at the market and its players, more and more companies are integrating additive manufacturing into their production chains. The famous Swedish brand IKEA is one of the companies that embraced 3D printing a few years ago. Its first collection of 3D-printed objects was created in 2018 with SLS printing, in collaboration with designer Bea Åkerlund. London studio Alaska’s project is another example: thanks to SLS, they have built a table whose legs have been 3D printed and can support the weight of a walnut top.

Another technology used is binder jetting. It is compatible with a wide variety of materials, including metal, sand, wood, ceramics and composites. One of the companies already using it for interior design is Sandhelden, notably for the creation of bathroom collections. Another example is Forust. Founded in 2019, the company uses wood as a manufacturing material for decorative parts, among other applications. It also offers its customers an online printing service where anyone can order samples or send in their creations. By applying colors and textures to 3D-printed sawdust, it has opened up a wide range of functional and creative possibilities. Since its partnership with Desktop Metal, the two companies have used metal powder and wood waste binder jetting for a number of sustainable projects.

3D printing in interior design

On the left, IKEA’s first project using SLS technology, and on the right, Forust Corporation’s project using Desktop Metal

FDM technology can also be used, a very affordable option with which you can manufacture your own 3D part at home, since these printers are available on the market from around a hundred euros. The materials you can use are mainly thermoplastics such as PLA, ABS, nylon or PETG. Some of the projects that have used this technology are, for example, chairs with a puzzle-like design created by Bits & Parts, which you can find in 3 different models.

Which Materials Are Most Commonly Used?

To choose the right material for your decorative piece, several factors need to be taken into account. These include the material’s properties (flexibility, strength, etc.), the color or type of use and the finish, among others. The materials most commonly used in 3D printing are polymers and metals, which you can find in different forms: resin, filament or powder, depending on the technology you choose. Polymers, for example, can be used for a wide variety of parts and decorative objects.

Ceramics and organic materials can also give your room a real, natural look. For example, you can use wood for lamps, or other materials such as glass or stone for cutlery. We also mentioned sand above. You can also use clay, a material that will give your pieces a smooth, rigid finish. In the photo below, you can see some examples of parts 3D printed with this palette of materials.

3D printing in interior design

1. Ceramic and organic materials; 2. Cutlery made of stone; 3. Sand; 4. Glass

The Role of Sustainability

Many companies are paying particular attention to respect for the environment, not only through 3D printed homes, but also by using this technology in other areas of design. Furthermore, there are many projects in which 3D printing and recycling go hand in hand. For example, Barbara Gollackner transformed food waste into 3D printed tableware or a 3D printed pavilion was made in the Middle East out of recycled water bottles.

But it goes further than that. 3D printing can be considered to be increasingly effiecient because in addition to enabling the creation of objects in a short space of time, it uses only the amount of material needed, thus not producing as much waste as traditional manufacturing. Bold Design, another interior design company, explains: “When creating products for mass production, 3D printing enables us to manufacture objects as close as possible to the end users. We limit storage by producing in small batches, on demand, without necessarily increasing costs, unlike injection molding processes which require expensive and complex tooling. By mastering design for 3D printing, we are able to manage both the aesthetic aspect and highly technical elements within the same part, limiting human intervention, which makes it possible to obtain precise, high-quality objects at very reasonable prices, personalize them and take care of the environment.”

Other projects worth mentioning include the construction of a 3D-printed wall with staircases. Produced by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), it is made from rice and clay, an ecologically sustainable material. Another outdoor project, planters made from 100% recycled plastic by Aectual. Hans Vermeulen, co-founder and CEO, said: “It’s also a raw material with which we can make beautiful things, thanks to the new craft of 3D printing. We want to help make the polluting world of construction cleaner and more beautiful. It all starts on a small scale with this planter.”

Last but not least, there is furniture. Manufacturing furniture using 3D printing is particularly interesting from an ecological point of view. You can use 100% recycled plastic, or recycle urban waste, for example. R3direct, for example, prints plastic in granulated form, thus requiring less energy and emitting less CO2. The granules come from recycled packaging (fruit juice bottles and cartons).

3D printing in interior design

On the left, you can see the wall and staircase made of clay and rice; on the right, the R3direct ecological bench

Additive Manufacturing and Customization

One of the great advantages of additive manufacturing is its capacity for customization. Decorating a home is a very personal thing, and tastes and colors are not up for discussion. 3D printing allows you to do just that, to personalize your home furnishings. This is because 3D printing lets users create the designs they have always imagined but never been able to realize, as it gives the free rein to imagination and creativity.

It is even possible for users to do it themselves with their own 3D printer. Already we have seen examples of lamps, decorative objects such as vases, flower pots, or even chairs, furniture and more. Let your imagination run wild and integrate 3D printed objects into your home! If you have 3D design skills, you can modify or redesign the rooms you want in your home. There are a number of software programs you can use to create these designs, or you can even find them already produced on various online file platforms.

What Does the Future Hold for 3D Printing in Interior Design?

We’ve analyzed and learned a little more about the role of 3D printing in interior design. But what does the future hold for this sector? Almost every industry is already using additive manufacturing in their production process, thanks to the many advantages it offers. From small designers to large companies, they see a great market opportunity where they can develop great freedom in designing, manufacturing and marketing their products. The wide variety of materials available on the market and compatible with 3D technologies means that an infinite number of parts can be created, from small, highly detailed objects to furniture, decorative items, cutlery and so on. It’s only a matter of time before new companies and projects dedicated to interior design using 3D printing emerge. We hope that in the future we’ll continue to see design projects that stand out for their personalization and originality, or for their commitment to the environment. We’ll keep you informed of any new developments, so stay tuned!

What do you think about the role of 3D printing in interior design? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: Kohler

One comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

  1. Robert Travis says:

    I’ve been considering doing this.

    There are two unknowns for me however

    1) Best material, that can readily be painted with standard interior latex paint. And that the paint won’t flake off of as time goes on. Essentially, is there an AM material that matches the paintability of primed wood or MDF?

    2) Can details be printed that won’t require finish sanding? Ties to the previous question.

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