INNOVATIVE MATERIALS AND SOLUTIONS FOR A NEW KIND OF DESIGN INSPIRED BY 3D PRINTING
Client: Various customers
Sustainable, technologically-advanced design solutions for product merchandising.
Parametric product design and 3D printing production with both innovative and traditional materials.
Thanks to its know-how in parametric design and 3D printing, Protocube Reply has created a specific tech-driven research branch with the aim of proposing innovative and distinctive solutions for brands’ merchandising. Additive merchandising draws from a technological design philosophy that successfully tackles any complexity and variety in shapes: from the concept to production.
The creation of innovative merchandising products in terms of technology and design represents a constant challenge, a shared need for brands operating in very different sectors.
Intending to propose innovative and distinctive solutions for brands merchandising, Protocube Reply has created a specific “tech-driven” research line, inspired by a design philosophy that successfully tackles any complexity and variety in shapes: from concept to production.
Basic research is constantly oriented towards the specific objectives of the brands, following an analysis aimed at precisely defining direct needs or guiding research to finding new solutions.
3D PRINTING: A TECHNOLOGY IN SEARCH OF ITS LIMITS
The desire to push the design based on additive manufacturing to its limits dates back to many years ago, and it does not depend on an apparent virtuosity. In 2009, when the research and development project began, 3D printing did not have the technological maturity and the know-how it has today: each application was a challenge. To understand what these technologies were capable of, it was necessary to experiment with every aspect. Fuelled by all the innovations introduced on the market, research was inspired from the first moment by some fundamental concepts:
- Parametric Design in 3D, to create any possible shape;
- Mass Customisation of the products;
- “Manufacturing-Oriented” design, compatible with mass production;
- Research and development of innovative materials, to exploit the potential of 3D printing and achieve higher quality at significantly lower costs;
- Hybridisation with traditional technologies, to identify the most efficient solution to meet the needs of the brands, with a “tailor-made” approach;
- Flexible solutions to address various cases and applications, supporting brands in their marketing and communication strategy.
PARAMETRIC DESIGN: FORM IS NOTHING WITHOUT CONTROL
To guarantee creative designers the highest freedom of expression, making full use of the potential of additive manufacturing, some tools are needed to simplify the modelling phases, making the transition from the concept to the real product straightforward and intuitive. A concept cannot do without significant technical expertise. Parametric design is the answer to this need. It makes it possible to manage all the variables that define the creation of a product. Based on VPL (visual programming language) technologies such as Grasshopper 3D, Protocube is currently developing tools that can create and control shapes of all kinds with the utmost simplicity. Thanks to “controlled randomisation”, a designer can unleash their creativity, knowing they will be able to turn it into a real product since the physical parameters necessary for production can be obtained at any time.
CUSTOM DESIGN AND SERIES PRODUCTION
A production in 3D printing is independent of minimum production quantities because it does not require moulds and other complex pre-processing operations. This allows a brand to customise the design of a product and produce it in quantities ranging from a single piece to a small series. Such an approach would be impossible using traditional technologies, which must produce a lot in order to be efficient.
The latest progress in 3D printing is making this technology increasingly effective even in larger volume production. This is an aspect that continuously provides new ideas in terms of finding new interesting break-even points.
NYCROTECH: A TECHNOLOGICAL MATERIAL WITH A TRADITIONAL SOUL
One of the most interesting challenges is to take a material conventionally considered “cheap” and turn it into a resource with a much higher perceived value. This is how the Nycrotech patent was born. A 3D-printed product made of Nylon undergoes a series of processes that significantly change its appearance, obtaining the desired surface finish and colour. The process is overall innovative though it is based on conventional techniques that are very common in the industry. This removes the need to go through a long and complex certification process, and significantly reduces production costs. Nycrotech, besides featuring a much better look and feel than common Nylon, is dermocompatible, and therefore, wearable.
DESIGN AND DIGITAL CRAFTSMANSHIP: LUXURY AND EXCLUSIVE PRODUCTS
In addition to pushing the possibilities of “technical” materials to their limits, 3D printing supports a kind of design that relies on traditional solutions. The ability to hybridise a product allows Nycrotech to be combined with elements of goldsmith’s art, both in terms of unique pieces and limited series productions. This makes it possible to combine precious, exclusive elements with modern design styles and large dimensions while being light and comfortable to wear.
APPLICATIONS AND CASE STUDIES – FROM PRODUCT MERCHANDISING TO BUSINESS EVENTS
The know-how acquired in the field of 3D-printed merchandising design has made it possible to realise numerous experiences, including that with Alfa Romeo. The iconic grille of the Arese-based brand was a spontaneous inspiration for the design of the Nycrotech shells holding the silver elements of the Alfa logo. There are also numerous applications in 3D printing with standard materials, as in the case of cufflinks for FIAT 500.
If the collaborations with luxury brands such as Maison Margiela represent a constant opportunity for experimentation, corporate events offer a privileged area of application. In this field, trophies and gadgets are in high demand as they contribute to making the experience memorable by expressing a circumstance strongly connected to the brand and its motivational roots.
For further information on innovative merchandising that can be achieved with 3D technologies, we suggest reading the following case studies.