3D Printed Interior with Upcycled Plastic: Reducing Waste, Enhancing Design
“Our planet is choking in plastic,” states the United Nations. While the man-made material has many valuable uses, our addiction to single-use plastic products has led to severe economic, health and environmental issues. Roughly one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and five trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide –used just once, then thrown away. Plastics and microplastics have found their way into every corner of our natural environment, from the peaks of the highest mountains to the depths of the deepest oceans. So much so, that they have become part of the Earth’s fossil record and created an entirely new marine microbial habitat known as the “plastisphere.”
Threatening our ability to contain global temperature rise within the critical 1.5° threshold, plastic pollution is causing disastrous effects. These are especially evident across the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures have spiked five times faster than the global average over the last half-century. As a result, 75% of all glacial areas have melted, and if we breach the 1.5°C limit, glaciers will disappear entirely. Sea levels will rise, coral reefs will deteriorate and extreme weather events will become more frequent. So, how can we address this through design? Blending ingenuity and creativity with technological innovation, architects and designers can contribute with their own grain of sand. Nagami and Ecoalf, for instance, have done so in one of their latest projects: a fully 3D printed interior made with recycled plastics.
Repurposing 3.3 tons of plastic waste
Ecoalf, pioneer in eco-fashion, has joined forces with Nagami, a technology-driven design studio that aims to redefine the concept of design, production and consumption through large-scale robotic 3D printing. Sharing an interest in sustainable manufacturing, the two Spanish brands have partnered to create a Net Zero, Zero Waste boutique store in Las Rozas, Madrid. The new space gives 3.3 tons of plastic waste a second life, which can be completely reused for future projects at the end of its lifecycle and is almost infinitely recyclable, losing just one percent of its structural performance with each new use.
Every wall, shelf and display table inside the store is made from 100% recycled, repurposed plastic that is 3D printed to resemble a melting glacier, raising awareness about the effects of climate change (and how new technologies can contribute to alleviate them). The plastic is mainly sourced from hospitals and every element is produced locally in Spain, minimizing CO2 emissions.
This project brings together design and technology to raise awareness about climate change and inspire a real change. – Javier Goyeneche, Founder and President of Ecoalf
Referencing the way wind and snow erode ice over time, the 3D printed sculptural installation wraps around the 90 m2 space and is used to display Ecoalf’s top-quality garments, accessories and footwear, all made from recycled, low-impact materials. On the floor, natural stone tiles exhibit veins that evoke the impression of ice cracking, heightening the sensation of walking on a glacier.
Pushing the limits of 3D printing technology
3D printing has revolutionized the industry, offering designers an exciting new set of tools that allow them to streamline the design process, prototype quickly and efficiently, create customized pieces with increasingly complex geometries and promote sustainability through the use of recycled materials. In this case, as revealed by Manuel Jiménez García, Co-Founder and CEO of Nagami, the undulating forms that cover every surface of the store pushed the robotic printing technology to its limit.
Nagami created the plastic panels using a robotic arm equipped with a custom-built extruder that can print complex 3D forms. Traditional 3D printing usually involves layering, but by adjusting the robot’s orientation, it was possible to craft the curved geometry that characterizes this one-of-a-kind project. Because the walls are divided into panels and joined using connectors that form part of the printed structure, the tolerance needed to be extremely precise for the components to fit together neatly. The cutting-edge technology brought this distinctive design to life, enabling design professionals to translate their ambitious creative vision into a concrete reality.
With global temperatures surging at an alarming pace, we must seek out innovative approaches to designing spaces that expand the boundaries of imagination and help us envision a more sustainable built environment. 3D printing is one of the game-changing, increasingly advanced technologies that can guide the industry to a greener and healthier future; the glacier-inspired boutique store in Madrid is a testament to its immense potential.
We urgently need to rethink the way we produce and consume to provoke a real change in the industry. Today, 3D printing allows us to bring to life spaces that before were unimaginable, produced locally not only by using recycled materials, but establishing production chains that are cleaner, more sustainable and flexible. And this is already a reality. – Manuel Jiménez García, Co-Founder & CEO of Nagami
Visit Nagami’s website or watch this video to learn more about the project.
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