Keystones elements

Polyamide is the basic building block of many useful plastics. Two designers have turned polyamide printing into the basic building block of a series of connectors that allow users to create all kinds of structures.

They are a clever and novel use for 3D printing technology, and they give rise to a range of user-designed furniture, wall partitions, sculptures and so on.

Minale-Maeda are the designers, an Italian-Japanese amalgamation. They developed the 3D printed connectors from earlier work. Their previous investigations as to the potential of multi-directional material translations allow them to distil a piece of furniture down to a set of geometric shapes and the connectors, or keystones, that tie these together.

Similar to the twentieth century works of engineers Buckminster Fuller or Frei Otto, these connectors are the result of reducing the design of a piece of furniture to a compact piece that can be 3D printed on-location.

This is an important, growing trend in construction, as digital methods combines more and more with the analogue building-block. Equally, Minale-Maeda stress the advantage of open-source schematics, which allow the realisation of furniture based on Gerrit Rietveld Drawings, even using Lego, as well as novel forms of distribution (such as downloadable design).

Like its namesake of the architectural arch, the keystone holds together the various components of a table or chair, which can be fabricated using basic workshop tools or a standard cnc milling machine without the need for joinery skills. By employing keystones, only the most essential part of the furniture requires shipping, as the rest can be made from the materials at hand.

Information and images via the designers.