3D printing technology has become in recent years a revolution in the
industry at all levels. From small parts to the manufacture of houses,
through the medical printing of artificial organs to implant them in
humans. A machine capable of printing figures with volume from a
computer-made design seems to have no limits. In this sector is where we
find a young company with five years of walking,
Comme Des Machines
Taking into account this is a technology within its early stages of development, still undergoing a process of expansion, what made you specialize in 3D printing? How do you see the future of this technology
When we started (back in 2012 and under the name of AA Enterprise) we were a consultancy firm specializing on the impact of digital technologies in the fashion industry. We quickly identified the infinite possibilities offered by 3D printing to clean up an industry as tremendously unsustainable as that of textile. After much research, we set off to test and learn in order to verify if everything we had theorized had a real basis. And indeed, it did.
3D printing reverts and calls into question all the inefficiencies of the traditional garment industry. Traditional manufacturing encourages standardization; digital manufacturing encourages uniqueness. Traditional manufacturing overstocks the planet with product before demand even exists, while digital manufacturing allows us to manufacture when and what is in demand, with all that means: saving material, storage space, transportation, etc. We are facing a new era. As we like to say: the era of machines will be the era of people!
At the speed new technologies are moving forward, supported partly by new generations’ ease to get used to change, will there be a 3D printer in our homes in the near future? And what will it be their use?
Yes, the development of technology is absolutely exponential. No doubt, the day will come when all homes have some kind of 3D printer. However, contrary to some, we do not believe people will be printing everything they need at home. An example: in the 90's we all had a photocopier at home, but if we were looking for quality, we would go to a copy shop. We imagine it would be similar with 3D printers. Even so, the advantages are enormous, we can buy any design or blueprint, from anywhere in the world, and end up producing it locally.
In Comme des Machines you define yourself as specialized in fashion and technology. What does this mean in productive terms? What kind of products do you manufacture?
We have had a very clear goal from the very beginning: to work so that 3D printing is incorporated to the fashion industry. This is the only way to make the unsustainable more sustainable, to achieve a real impact, to try to spread the message that things can be manufactured differently. So we started making custom and sustainable pieces in small batches for different fashion brands: from decorations to accessories. However, as time went by, other kinds of creative industries began to contact us: interior designers, architects, artists, etc. We decided to take the leap and incorporate large format printers. Now the range of products is so wide that we even surprise ourselves daily. We print anything from sculptures, furniture, merchandising, packaging, decorative objects, outdoor signs and wall logos. Each project is an adventure. On the same day we can be working on tiny pieces of jewelry and a XXL signboard for a restaurant.
You define your production process among other characteristics as sustainable. Which environmental benefits can be derived from the process of 3D manufacturing? And for your activity in particular, how do you implement sustainability in your production process?
3D printing is the paradigm of sustainability, and not only because it allows us to manufacture products using biodegradable materials, but for a great number of reasons. Additive manufacturing only consumes the amount of materials you need for the part, without generating any kind of waste. There is no stock, we work on demand. We manufacture without minimums. That is, our customers do not have to submit to the tyranny of ordering a certain amount of products, they can choose to make one product or one thousand. Although it may seem anecdotal, these few changes dynamite the worst of traditional manufacturing: storage and transportation. But for us, being sustainable means not only respect for the environment, but the empowerment of individuals and of small businesses. We aim to make available to everyone what was once only available to a few: creativity and design, personalization and sustainability.
With the potential demonstrated by this new technology and the pace of its development, do you think 3D printing will replace in the future all other traditional models of design and manufacturing?
The word ‘replace’ might be a little bold. We believe that they will coexist. What we do believe, with no room for doubt, is that digital manufacturing will come first. When we started, 3D printing was only used for prototyping or product development. There were very few in the world who thought the real impact was in manufacturing, but the years have proven us right. We have predicted that in the future even large brands will manufacture in a personalized way, which can only be achieved through digital technologies. Look at Adidas for example, with a traditional industry background and yearly sales of millions of units, they aim to manufacture custom footwear that will perfectly match the feet of each of their customers. Such degree of customization, which will be the norm in the future, is only possible thanks to advanced manufacturing.
After these five years on the work, how does Comme des Machines face the future? What growth do you predict for the company?
We are ambitious and optimistic. Today, we already supply different industries, not just the fashion industry. In the medium term, we intend to continue to incorporate new digital technologies that allow us to respond to the growing demand of these new industries and allow us to be more efficient and competitive and, therefore, more sustainable. In short, we will also launch a line of objects and furniture of our own.
We like to think that we will continue to make better and better products and that among all of us -including you and everyone in this battle-, we will be able to contribute to building a new paradigm, a more creative, more sustainable way of doing things. We want to be an active part of this new era and put our grain of sand into building a better world. Of course, working with an emerging technology is a daily fight, which requires a huge effort not only of constant learning, but also of a constant work of raising awareness and diffusion. It is not the same to offer something which people are already familiar with, than to open new paths. But that is our dream and we are going for it. And we warn you... we are very stubborn.
From Ekohunters we wish you all the success of the world. We love that there are people like you who do not fear, not only to undertake, but to do it in the forefront of technology.