The 3D Printing Process: Taking One Designer’s Idea from Concept to Reality

Our first Designer Case Study was submitted by Anna Mannarino, an award-winning interior and event designer based in Holmdel, New Jersey. For more information on Anna and her studio, keep reading to the end of this post!

The concept for this cocktail table — appropriately named The Mannarino Table after its designer — centered around reinventing a classic piece of furniture: the piece emulates a side table draped with a traditional white tablecloth. The juxtaposition of the inherently soft fabric of a tablecloth with the rigidity of recycled plastic offers a unique and beautiful spin on a classic silhouette.

For the popup we printed a 13” diameter version of the table using white PLA filament. In her design submission Anna envisioned a set of three tables in various sizes, which could be used as a set or on their own. She also suggested using bright colours or metallic finishes, which would even further transform the table into a decidedly modern and on-trend piece of furniture.

Right away, I could also see these tables being stackable or even offered in a bar-height version — complete with a couple glasses of wine and a light summer breeze on a New York rooftop. The beauty of 3D printing — and a key element of Print The Future’s vision — is the idea that designers can engage with these moments of inspiration and innovation, quickly and affordably. It sounds cheesy, but the only limit to what you can create really does become your imagination.

To bring her idea to life, Anna sketched out her design concept by hand and then worked with a colleague to create a 3D file to be sent for printing. In general furniture can be designed in a number of 3D-modeling programs, including AutoCAD, Rhino, SketchUp, and TinkerCAD — an online tool that is great for beginners. These types of 3D models are then cleaned up and converted to STL files, which are the mostly widely used file type for 3D printing.

Converting Anna’s digital 3D model essentially meant creating a file with thousands of 2D horizontal layers, or slices, which dictate where the extruders place material down as the object is built from the ground, or print bed, up. The table was printed upside down on our BigRep ONE so that the top of the table could be supported by the printer bed. The BigRep ONE printer boasts a 1 cubic meter printing capacity which is the largest FFF build volume currently available on the international market!

From the beginning Anna’s design was optimal for 3D printing. While we were able to print her piece without any issues, one discussion we had with BLB, our printing partners in Sweden, revolved around increasing the thickness of the outer walls.For future prints of this design, we would consider printing the outer walls thicker to create a sturdier piece, especially if we decided to increase the height or diameter of the table. Printing these prototypes with designers has been a very valuable experience as our print specialists continually strive to get the best results out of our 3D printers.

We sat down with Anna and talked about the future of 3D printing and its potential to revolutionize how residential design firms source furniture. For Anna the thought of taking a piece of furniture to print had never occurred to her, and that’s why she finds the possibility so incredible. As a designer she says, “The idea that [3D printed furniture] is something that could be so customized and delivered quickly is key to what we do”. Anna believes the value in 3D printing would be tremendous, asserting that on a “scale of 1–10, it would be an 11” for designers and consumers alike.

Anna Maria Mannarino is an Award-Winning Interior and Event Designer whose company, Mannarino Designs, Inc., has transformed spaces from Cape Cod to Cape May and beyond. Interior Design projects have included restaurants, banquet facilities, historic mansions, New York boardrooms, metropolitan apartments, and beach cottages, while Event Designs have ranged from small affairs and grand black and white tie galas to spectacular themed celebrations.

Ms. Mannarino currently serves as Chapter President of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). She is a recipient of numerous national and state awards, has projects that have been recognized in several books, and is regularly published in magazines and newspapers.