Discrete architecture, modular furniture

On the occasion of the Milan Design Week 2022 at Palazzo Bandello, INDEXLAB and GIMAC-EXGINEERING present Plantblock, a 3D printed interlocking system for modular furniture and discrete architecture.

Plantblock is an idea of Imane El Bakkali and INDEXLAB to upcycle used ABS plastic pellets into a piece of modular furniture.


Two HPL panels, milled using a dovetail-shaped end-effector, constitute the bottom and top interfaces of the module, which are joined by a double-curvature surface and stiffened by three inner structures.
Two cylinders come out of the piece, forming a joint with superposed modules, allowing rotation around the Z-axis and various combinations. Those aggregations can have a horizontal as well as a vertical development depending on the design choice but following a set of rules between each 2 modules defined parametrically using WASP plug in for Grasshopper. In fact, this later tool takes the geometry as a base, its connections lines/points, and their orientation to determine a series of possible configurations with a priorly determined number of elements.
The first layer of fused material deposition is undertaken so as to completely fill the dovetail-milled curves on the bottom and top seat surfaces and ensuring reciprocal adherence between the panel and the fused plastic.

The fabrication of PLANTBLOCK takes about two hours and, being completely parametric, is very versatile in terms of control and customisation of both the patterning and curvature of the module.
The employment of GIMAC's Robotic Additive Molding (RAM) production process grants infinite possibilities of configuration of the PLANTBLOCK - an insulated facade panel, a modular urban bench for public spaces and gardens, a vase holder for the indoors and outdoors - tailored to specific user interests or needs. This would be very difficult to achieve using traditional injection moulding techniques, which allow working with smaller tolerances for mass product serialisation but do not allow enough design freedom with complex curvatures, since the production of one mould is generally very costly and features lots of geometric constraints.

The PLANTBLOCK weights about eight kilograms, of which five are of recycled Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), which is a very rigid and chemical resistant thermopolymer widely used in various industry sectors - particularly in the automotive sector.
Transforming old plastic car bumpers into a new vase for your apartment plants, the PLANTBLOCK is tackling the modern guilt par-excellence: the creation of plastic waste products that are very difficult to re-use.
Lessening the gap between mass-production and mass-recycling, between industry and end-user, between waste and preservation, PLANTBLOCK creates an opportunity for re-purposing large quantities of ABS plastic into new products through large-scale 3D printing techniques, fostering the creation of new circular economies and the use of more effective cradle-to-cradle approaches in product design.

The making of Plantblock prototype

Design and Prototyping Team - INDEXLAB
Designer - Imane El Bakkali
Project Lead - Federico Bordoni
Robotic-post-processor - Salvatore Urso
Principal - Pierpaolo Ruttico

Manufacturing Technology - GIMAC-EXGINEERING



Year: 2022


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