3D printed modular furniture

modular furniture 1My maker adventure in Istanbul continues with some Modular furniture I decided to create.

Backstory: I’ve been looking at office space around Beyoglu. There are lots of spaces that’d satisfy my “office” needs… But the fablab, that comes with a different set of requirements. Finding the perfect space for all my plans had proven to become a challenge in this city of ancient architecture that grows more crowded every year. So, what to do?

I don’t have a lot of capitol, planning wisely becomes enormously imperative to my success here. First, I’ll get the real estate that I need TODAY, and move when I need to grow the fablab part of the business – designing furniture that can work in both types of space from the outset.

Modular furniture: What is it? In my context, I’m choosing locally available, low cost materials on which to base the construction of custom furniture. I am 3d printing “universal” joints as my stylized erector set, basically speaking. The more I researched, the more I found that different countries have different “standard” building materials – 2×4 lumber is readily available and low cost in North America, while 1×3 is the way to go in most developing regions I looked into. Wood can also cost more than steel and aluminum, to my surprise. For my Istanbul offices, which would eventually shift from a place of laptops to a place of laptops, lasers, cnc, and 3d printers, I decided to go with threaded steel rods as they are one of the cheapest materials I sourced in Karakoy. Rebar (the spine for cement construction) is even cheaper, and probably readily available throughout most of the world, but I thought I would start with the rods for aesthetic reasons.

My personal goal: A solid framework for desktop surfaces that look good in a business environment, cost less than $50 each, and can be dismantled and reassembled many times without sacrificing the durability of the furniture. I also need to be able to retrofit and change the design of the tables for my future needs without having the ability to anticipate every change that I may want in 6 months. So, the flexibility of lego’s to add a keyboard shelf where I may not have had one.

modular furniture 2My greater goal: To create an open source system that can be utilized in any part of the world, changing the parts easily for materials that are readily available and low cost in any region. While I choose to use threaded steel rod, I’d like to same system to be able to support rebar or 1×3 wood or etc.

Creation: Hello Rhino. and hello boolean operations. This is iterative design, it provides an opportunity to get a design “right” through multiple levels of construction. I started chunky, so I’d have room to reinforced a load bearing piece if necessary,  then do a “boolean difference” of extraneous areas of the 3d print. All the while with an eye towards design.  I’m not a structural Engineer, and I believe common sense can go a long way,  but I’d prefer to trust a heavy load on the table after I’ve proven I can lie down across it :) and I’ll achieve that through the iterative design process. I countersunk 5/8″ nuts so the threaded rods would have a nice tight interface. I printed with very little infill as this was a first-go, and to my surprise it felt really very solid. It’s likely due to the fact that all the channels boolean’ed out for the nuts have provided a lot of structure (especially with 3 or 4 shells in use).modular_rhino

Future: Eventually, I’d like to create some OpenSCAD scripts to enable the automatic creation of joints for different materials and user configurable table sizes. Let OpenSCAD spit the .stl’s out and start printing. Then get some kids to help assemble.

Result: You can see some of the initial iterations pictured, as well as what I might call a final table (so far, i’ve had Thai food with my girlfriend at the table, as well as a couple of laptops and some midi toys, and guess what, no one got injured & no fatalities). There are some thing’s I’ll change in the design, but I must say, this first shot has proven itself. I am currently writing this from New York (traveling) where I didn’t have access to Karakoy’s lower costs. Using Home Depot as my cost reference, Rebar (at about 5/8 thick) would cost me roughly $16 to build the table you see pictured below. I used 5/8″ threaded rods, which costs a little bit more without breaking the bank. I’ll report back on real costs when I build these out for my office space in Beyoglu next week. Stay tuned,also, for open sourced object files and eventually my OpenSCAD scripts.


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