Dutch Designer Felix Mollinga has developed a very interesting path to a final product. He uses a desktop 3D printer to 3D print a frame for a lamp. This frame is then submerged into a solution and crystals grow on top of the polymer frames. This leaves him with a very natural object that was made through 3D printing.
According to Felix,
“The process of 3D-printing and the forming of mineral crystals seem worlds apart, but are actually based on the same principle, slowly materializing layer by layer. Fascinated by their similarities and differences, I managed to manipulate them into a co-creative unity. Both materials need a day to complete their part of the structure. The printing is controlled, precise, and industrial. The crystals are unpredictable, stubborn, and organic. One strengthens fragility and the other contributes sparkle and translucency.”
These kinds of combinations of the natural and the mechanical are all the rage at the moment. We seem to be at a particular place where we miss the natural world and want to create using it not destroy it through needless production. Combining automated mechanical production processes with the random soft touch of nature also makes manufactured things seem like they are more noble and permanent.
Felix says that,
“When combining these materials, I aim to make them co-dependant. The crystals cannot grow in thin air, they are fragile, look precious, and will cling to any support they can grab onto. 3D printing allows for any shape, virtually unlimited intricacy, and a way to ‘design the crystals’. They are a perfect fit.”
Felix first started experimenting with growing crystals on 3D prints in 2017. Now a few years later he makes final products with them that you can buy. The lamps are beautiful and feel like a cave like structure when you touch them. They diffuse the light in a very natural way as well. I really wonder if there are not many industrial applications for this or similar processes. The combination of unique geometries with crystal materials could be a very exciting one. Growing jewelry would be a very nice application and I could also see how a kit like this could be a very immersive experience of growing your own jewelry in your house. Let’s start now honey so we have something for our first anniversary.
And you could apply this technique to just about any furniture or decorative item generally. In industry synthetic quartz and emeralds crystals are already made in autoclaves. Rather than needing to machine the crystals it would be interesting to know if end-use products could emerge if the crystal growth could be stimulated and controlled via the geometry of the frame. Could frame geometry create crystals with new properties that could be applied to new areas? Could this be used to grow semiconducting crystals in some kind of advantageous way? What if we made the frames out of an easy to dissolve material that we could remove, what would be possible then? Are there possible applications in things like optics? Could we use this to make inexpensive piezoelectric crystals? All in all a very interesting project that gives us plenty to think about.