Printing bespoke furniture

October 2015

The finished printed coffee table and chandelier. Photo: TiDA (Titanium Industry Limited).

TiDA and Rapid Advance Manufacturing (RAM) have been producing work commissioned from a leading design agency, with support from Creative New Zealand, to additive manufacture award-winning bespoke furniture.

The collaboration team designed and 3D printed an intricate coffee table and chandelier lighting – a process they describe as “pushing design boundaries”. The furniture pieces incorporated hand-crafted timber and jade with titanium 3D printed pieces, with an exact fit required for the pieces to slot together.

TiDA Chief Executive, Warwick Downing, says with the 3D printing of titanium pieces, no tooling is required. “Changes to ensure perfect fits were able to be quickly and easily updated and printed. The tolerances achieved were well within client requirements.”

Additive manufacturing involves building pieces layer by layer from a titanium powder. Each layer, approx 30-60 microns thick, is then selectively melted by laser to form the solid object.

They can also use the same printing process with stainless steel and other metal alloy powders.

Warwick says they’re creating parts that are similar, or certainly equivalent to, those made from metal that’s been machined.

A titanium 3D-printed jaw-bone replacement for a dog. Photo: TiDA (Titanium Industry Limited).

“If someone has a good understanding of design and engineering they can make things that weren’t possible before, and they can be cheaper to make than machined parts. People think of 3D printing as just a prototyping technology, but it’s not; increasingly we actually do production.”

Among the myriad of other uses for the technology, Warwick sees a growing market for the manufacturer of animal medical implants, “We’ve done some work with Massey University vets and a company in Napier called Axia on this, which has found that having well-designed implants reduces the need to replace them, and reduces operating time. Ultimately, it’s going to result in better outcomes for patients.”

In 2013, RAM was first called on to urgently print a titanium jaw-bone replacement for a large dog that had an aggressive cancerous growth. Axia designed a 3D CAD model from a CT scan from Massey and TiDA quickly printed off the part. The jaw was a perfect fit, with the dog able to eat within hours of the operation. Subsequently, there have been many implants in dogs both in New Zealand and Australia , with the first cat jaw recently having been successfully implanted into a cat in North America . The success and speedy recovery for the “patient” has created a growing awareness of additive manufacturing as an implant option.