3D printing works by building up the products layer by layer in a single continuous line, as opposed to cutting away from a larger material block or through injection moulding, both of which tend to generate more waste material.
Batch.Works’ 3D printing facilities are wind powered, so production is energy-efficient, requiring just 1.35 KW for every kilogram of printed product.
Circular economy is the key concept behind the new collection.
According to Zero Waste Scotland, “a circular economy is achieved by designing products smartly with their whole life cycle in mind, re-using and repairing to extend their useful life, and then when their life is deemed over, remanufacturing to create new products from old.”
In the spirit of a circular economy, customers are encouraged to recycle their bFRIENDS products when they no longer have a need for them. Any unwanted accessories can be returned to Bene to be recycled into new products.
Interestingly, bFRIENDS isn’t Bene’s first foray into 3D printing, per se.
In 2016 it supplied the furniture for the world’s first 3D printed office. Situated in Dubai, the concrete building was printed with a 6×46 metre 3D printer.
The key question is: is Bene planning to scale up the project and start printing 3D furniture?
It’s a possibility Fried’s certainly interested in.
“Of course! This could be the future. The bFRIENDS collection is not a trial; it’s clearly where we’re going. In the field of production, we’ll still have to see. As we’re a premium provider, we’re not making compromises on the quality.”
Fried wants to avoid ‘greenwashing’, which is when brands exaggerate their environmental credentials to mislead eco-conscious consumers. Take bamboo for instance, a material that Bene uses in some of its product lines.
Although bamboo is a sustainable crop in the sense that it’s fast-growing, requires no fertiliser and self-regenerates from its own roots, Fried says that we can’t gloss over the carbon emissions involved in transporting the raw material from countries like China.
“We want to make a step towards real sustainable efforts and so this [3D printing] is what we’re focusing on.”
In the short-term, Bene is going to be focusing on expanding its accessories product line.The team is keeping an eye on which colours are proving popular, and will continue to develop the physical language of the collection.
Fried also hopes that, in the near future, 3D printing facilities will become more widespread, enabling designers to leverage a distributed network of local manufacturing hubs.
The availability of 3D printing will significantly reduce shipping costs and minimise carbon emissions associated with the transportation of materials and goods.
“Cutting shipping distances for both raw materials and finished products, and shortening supply chains and lead times, is something that we all have to strive for.
“The 3D printers can be standing anywhere. We’re going to have some in our main markets here in Austria, Germany and France. This will be the future of our industry in the long-term.”