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The Trabecula Bench

Freedom of Creation—In recent decades, computer-aided design (CAD) has transcended the screen, thanks to the advent of automatic fabrication, a process wherein three-dimensional objects take shape by rapidly building up thin layers of material based on a digital model. It sounds like science fiction, but the technologies are simple; soon you’ll even be able to make a 3-D printer at home for about $600 (reprap.org).

A finished Trabecula bench. At six feet long and two feet high, it is one of the largest rapid-manufactured pieces of furniture in the world, and yet, owing to it's materials and biometric cues, it weighs a mere fourteen pounds.

While most designers avail themselves of rapid prototyping, few have begun using the machines for rapid manufacturing. Freedom of Creation (FOC) leads the way with their Trabecula bench, one of the largest rapid-manufactured furniture pieces at six feet long, two feet high, and just 14 pounds. Dwell talked fabbing with Janne Kyttänen, a designer at Amsterdam-based FOC, and paid a visit to their manufacturing facility in Munich.

The EOS GmbH rapid-manufacturing facility in Munich employs laser sintering machines to produce the Trabecula bench. Sintering is the process in which laser energy is used to fuse together individual particles of matter.

  • The Trabecula Bench: Drawing

    Kyttänen’s designs travel straight from his imagination to the computer. “Hardly anything happens on paper anymore,” he says, “because most of the files are so complex that it’s practically impossible to sketch them.” He uses a range of CAD software, from the user-friendly SolidWorks to the spline-savvy Rhino, but mostly 3D Studio Max.

  • The Trabecula Bench: Slicing

    The design files are sent to EOS GmbH, a Munich-based factory with six different types of laser-sintering machines. Before they begin, a slicing software divides the Trabecula into some 6,000 cross sections that are about 1/12-mm thick, which, according to Kyttänen, is “crude by today’s standards.” (Direct metal-sintering machines, which layer and fuse material with electron beams, can work in layers as this as 20 microns.)

  • freedom of creation trabecula bench sintering machine prep

    The Trabecula Bench: Sintering

    “Sintering” is not an everyday word for most people—it means using laser energy to melt and fuse particles. It’s traditionally applied to metal, but nowadays it works very well on certain varieties of plastic such as polyamide.

  • freedom of creation trabecula bench component extracted

    The Trabecula Bench: Unpacking

    When the bucket has cooled, it’s time to assemble the pieces. Ahmadou Kaloga, an EOS applications support technician, usually does the unpacking. “It’s like an archeological dig,” says Kyttänen. “A dinosaur in a pile of sand.”

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