Furniture maker Herman Miller has developed an unusual way to leverage 3D printing for their business – and yours.
You might be familiar with Herman Miller, the makers of iconic office furniture, such as the well-known Aeron chair. The company produces a wide variety of other office furniture components beyond chairs, including tables, desks and other furnishings.
But what are they doing in 3D printing? The state of 3D printing technology is currently inadequate to manufacture customer products, at least in a financially feasible way. Instead, they’ve come up with a unique way to complement their products.
Here’s the idea: 3D print (or request a 3D print of) a clip-on accessory for their traditional products. In the examples we’ve seen, most of the items were designed to be attached to this curved foam divider, which could be placed in any office.
The number of accessories is currently over sixty, with more coming. While the current designs are from internal designers, they are investigating the possibility of adding third party designs to their collection. This move could dramatically increase the number of items and utility of the collection.
The items available today are mostly hooks, cup holders and similar items, but they are designed for highly specific purposes.
Here we see a clip designed to hold post-it notes, for example.
Another item is designed to hold an old-fashioned sand timer.
It’s possible to order prints or to purchase the 3D model. Which should you take them up on? It depends on your volume. If you require only a handful of accessories, just order the prints. If you need to equip a larger office with some type of accessory, purchase the 3D model and print them out yourself.
We’re quite interested in this approach to 3D printing: it provides an easy way for the public to make use of 3D printing, in spite of the current limitations posed by the technology. It adds value to existing products and promotes Herman Miller’s line of furniture products. If they succeed, we may see other companies do similar ventures. Imagine what could be done for, say, automobiles, sports gear or appliances!