IKEA’s Consumer 3D Model Repository

By on March 17th, 2019 in Service

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 Some printable 3D models from IKEA [Source: IKEA]
Some printable 3D models from IKEA [Source: IKEA]

If you hadn’t noticed, IKEA has a small 3D model repository available to the public.

The Swedish furniture and housewares giant teamed with industry partners to develop a small repository designed to provide additional function for special needs customers. They created something they call “ThisAbles”.

They explain:

“The This Ables project was conceived to allow people with special needs to enjoy the quality of life provided by IKEA products.

As part of IKEA’s vision to ‘create a better everyday life for as many people as possible’, we joined forces with the non-profit organizations Milbat and Access Israel, that specialize in creating special solutions for populations with special needs and disabilities, and developed a new and revolutionary line of products that bridge some of the gaps between existing IKEA products and the special needs of people belonging to these populations.

It was important for us to create maximum access in every aspect of the project, from the designated site that we constructed for the project, that was adapted for people with disabilities, to the products themselves, some of which can even be printed independently in a 3D printer based on models that we have made available to the general public.”

This is a fascinating project, and one that I don’t think I’ve seen from any other major retailer.

Currently, their repository consists of only 13 specially designed 3D models. Each 3D model is an accessory that fits onto one of their existing products, and in some way provides a feature to assist different special needs.

 [Source: IKEA]
[Source: IKEA]

This item, for example, is called the “friendly zipper”, and it’s designed to attached to the zipper tab on several of IKEA’s standard products. In most cases zipper tabs are a bit small and those with dexterity challenges would usually have a hard time dealing with them. However, the friendly zipper provides an overly large ring that almost anyone be able to easily grasp.

The other items are of a similar nature, typically adding a grasping capability, or in one case providing a safety bumper for the prevention of collisions between wheelchairs and furniture.

 Typical 3D model online page from IKEA’s ThisAbles collection [Source: IKEA]
Typical 3D model online page from IKEA’s ThisAbles collection [Source: IKEA]

All of the 3D models have a very informative page that explains their use and how to print them, via a downloadable PDF printing guide. As you might expect the instruction guides look exactly like standard IKEA cartoon sequences, because, it’s IKEA.

 Assembly instructions for IKEA’s 3D printable models [Source: IKEA]
Assembly instructions for IKEA’s 3D printable models [Source: IKEA]

The 3D model pages contain a scrollable section that links to all of the other IKEA products that are applicable for that 3D model. In some cases there’s quite a long list, as these 3D models seem to have been very carefully designed.

IKEA provides a downloadable STL file that can be imported into any 3D print slicing program or production. All of the 3D models seem to be very easy to print as they are expertly designed. It appears that the spartan IKEA design style lends very well to generating printable 3D models.

It’s quite interesting to see a major retailer issuing printable 3D models because this could be the first time we see a liability situation develop. For example, what happens if someone injures themselves when using one of these self-printed items? Could IKEA be opening themselves for future lawsuits?

A user could, for example, improperly slice a 3D model and print a flawed version. The print could then break during operation.

Technically this seems possible, but the nature of the items seem so innocuous I can’t imagine anyone injuring themselves with them. None of these items could be classified as critical, in that they support large weights or structures.

I suspect IKEA’s lawyers signed off on this project, so there is likely a very low probability of problems occurring.

One more thing: I’m wondering this project could be a kind of test for IKEA as to whether it is feasible for them to offer 3D models of other types to the public in the future? Could we see paid downloads of actual IKEA products?

I’m hoping we do.


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!