Aectual 3D prints limited edition “mold” planters from recycled beach waste
Dutch sustainable architecture company Current used plastic collected along the coast of a Belgian beach to 3D print a unique range of mold-shaped plant holders.
Developed in collaboration with another architectural firm DUS Architects, and made from 100% recycled plastic, the shell-shaped planters were originally ordered for the magazine by Sabato annual design series “Knokke”. Now ready to be produced on demand and sold in a limited and numbered edition, Aectual says large format furniture is perfect for “bringing the natural beach feel” into people’s homes.
“We need to get rid of the negative idea that plastic is a disposable product,” said Hans Vermeulen, co-founder and CEO of Aectual. “It is also a raw material with which we can do great things, with the new profession of 3D printing. We want to help make the highly polluting construction world cleaner and the world a little more beautiful. It all starts on a small scale with this planter.
Aectual’s architectural ambitions
Founded in 2017, Aectual is a company dedicated to making custom architecture more sustainable and accessible to both designers and consumers of interior furnishings. The company’s manufacturing process revolves around four 3D printers mounted on robot arms, capable of printing on an area of 500 m² with a range of 360 °, unlocking the production of large customizable monobloc parts.
Compared to conventional construction methods, Aectual is also unique in that it is compatible with a bioplastic made from flax seeds. Developed in collaboration with Henkel, the eco-friendly polymer can be recycled up to seven times, making it less expensive than normal building materials, and the technology has now been deployed to create several large-scale proof-of-concept structures.
Since producing a sustainable 3D printed floor for Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in 2017, the company has used its technology to deliver a range of bespoke floors to the Italian Mobile Fair, and during a deepening interview, Vermeulen revealed that his recent growth has even seen him commanded by colloquial names like Nike, Burberry and Disney.
Over the past six months, Aectual has also attempted to gain better access to the consumer market, launching the beta of an on-demand architectural 3D printing platform at CES 2021. The online design center allows customers to customize and order panels, fixtures and flooring at their doorstep, in a model the company intends to roll out on a large scale in the future.
“In five years, we hope to be able to just send the 3D file via the cloud, after which the cabinet or wall panel will be printed in America, Dubai or London,” Vermeulen said. “We also have a digital library of existing designs that designers can work on further. As an open sharing space, Aectual [could] become the Spotify of architecture.
Mussels from around Brussels
Built at the request of Sabato as part of its series of eco-friendly designs, Aectual’s 3D printed planters are designed to draw attention to the lingering environmental problems caused by ocean litter. According to Sabato, every Belgian has thrown away an average of more than 30kg of plastic in 2020, and earlier this year a cleaning team managed to collect 120kg of trash along Knokke’s coast alone.
To make their contribution to the local marine life, the volunteers of Aectual and Sabato therefore came together to collect plastics such as bottles, caps and pieces of fishing net, before mixing them with household waste, to recycle them into a 3D printable material and mix in white pigment. , to form the basis of the team’s mold-shaped planters.
“[We chose] the mussel shell because scientific research shows that mussels contain an enormous amount of microplastic particles, ”explained Martine de Wit, one of the three co-founders of Aectual. “Also, a case is actually 3D printed, but by nature. If you look closely you can see that it has been built up layer by layer.
Initially, Aectual made two prototypes, featuring low oval and tall round shapes, both containing the equivalent of 120 recycled plastic shampoo bottles. Since each planter was individually printed and not molded, subsequent specimens all looked slightly different from each other, but overall measured 98 x 40 x 29cm and 55 x 45 x 49cm respectively, and sported a distinctly a-like face. crustacean.
Following the initial success of the project, Aectual has agreed to print up to 500 of the planters which will be graduated by hand, bear a unique signature and sold through the Sabato website. Sustainable gardening items are priced at € 495 per piece, putting them well beyond the reach of the average Belgian, but Aectual’s Hedwig Heinsman says the technology will only get cheaper as adoption grows. .
“Now, 3D printed objects are indeed still relatively expensive, but that will change,” concluded Hedwig Heinsman, Aectual’s third co-founder. “We are like You’re here. They first put a very expensive racing car on the market. Each subsequent car was a little cheaper. This will also be the case with 3D printing.
“We are the Tesla of the construction industry.”
3D printed furniture
Typically, designers produce limited-edition 3D printed furniture as a proof of concept, rather than with the goal of becoming the construction equivalent of Tesla or Spotify. In May 2021, for example, the Viennese designer Philipp Aduatz worked with incremental3d to 3D print a collection of concrete furniture with a unique gradient aesthetic.
In a more environmentally friendly initiative, the Dutch design studio The new vintage launched a zero waste lab in Greece, where residents can use household plastics to design and 3D print benches. Built under the larger Print your city project, 3D printed chairs have since been presented around Thessaloniki, to demonstrate the potential of the technology.
Elsewhere, when it comes to building materials, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed lab-grown cells that could be used to 3D print durable furniture. By cultivating and adjusting plant-based fabrics, the team were able to produce synthetic woods that in the future have the potential to facilitate global deforestation.
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The image shown shows the co-founders of Aectual alongside their 3D printed planters. Image via Aectual.