Additive manufacturing, a new approach to furniture design
reading time: 5 minutes
interview with Alessio Elli
Alessio Elli is a designer and artist with a historic passion for glass and its many creative opportunities. After studying traditional materials, Elli moved on to explore 3D printing, which has enabled him to develop his own unique, contemporary style. His pieces are characterised by an original combination of form, light and surface finishes, and derive from experimentation with the potentials of additive manufacturing processes, also on the industrial scale.
Ceramic surfaces and 3D printing, two options for manufacturing with low environmental impact and for experimenting with new aesthetic codes. They have now come together in a furnishing collection designed and produced by the ELLI brand, in which Marazzi plays a key role in creation of the surfaces.
“ELLI brand furniture,” company founder Alessio Elli explains, “is rooted in innovation strongly linked to sustainability, which through innovation is able to embrace many factors, first and foremost the issue of ‘zero waste’ during production: no unnecessary material is used and all waste is recovered, reworked and reused. If only the material actually necessary to manufacture the product is used, light weight becomes an important design parameter; the production process is potentially ‘just in time’, saving on the consumption of land to build warehousing space and other auxiliary areas that support production. What’s more, the production line is streamlined, with machinery that occupies less space and uses much less energy than in ‘traditional’ manufacturing.” This interesting result was possible thanks to the collaboration, in the research and development phase, with Caracol, a start-up of the digital manufacturing that also deals with furniture printing.
Apart from the product, what is your business concept?
We aim to create an Elli Factory, a “Digital craft workshop”, and a new concept of showroom which fits into the broader projects for a smart city. We want to bring manufacturing back into cities, and also improve distribution using proximity stores. Thanks to two new equity investor shareholders, I will be able to develop not just our first products and markets but also the creation of the platform of proprietary models which can be viewed, customised and produced via 3D printing. Original customised models and models inspired by the historic currents and styles of Italian and international design, to conserve their value and keep their memory alive.
Which have been the first items produced and what is your target market?
The offering comprises a table, a side table which also serves as a pouf and a chair, made entirely by 3D printing.
Tops will be in Marazzi The Top, 6 millimetres thick. The textures selected for this first series of furniture include Sahara Noir, Golden White and Ceppo di Gré. The decision to use ceramic surfaces reinforces the principles of sustainability on which the project is based. More series of tops will be produced in glass and other equally recyclable materials. We are working with several companies to produce exclusive surfaces and finishes, to match the shapes and colours of the new furniture.
We address a well informed purchaser aware of environmental issues and technological innovation, and ours is an international audience. Considering the product’s unique features, we believe that the ideal markets will be Ho.Re.Ca. together with the residential world and also public areas.
Where will we be able to buy the new products?
Initially, on third-party ecommerce platforms – such as Artemest, Archiproduct and DesignItaly – with which we’ve been working for years and that have enabled us to sell worldwide. We are working on a plan for commercial distribution through a network of showrooms and professionals as well, because this furniture line’s productive ecosystem is ideal for the contract world. In these still uncertain times, the sharing and development of processes and products between design firms and large manufacturers is becoming standard practice, and is proving very successful. Models may be very diverse, but they all have the shared aim of reducing the consumption of resources and optimising production and distribution models.