Furnishings case study - Wooden spoon
Valenti presents the approach to a product as handcrafted as a wooden spoon, based on innovation in prototyping. Using 3D printing to quickly materialize his ideas, he explains how this greatly facilitated and accelerated the acceptance by the client of the final design.
Valentí García http://valentigarcia.com
Industrial and product designer
Product designer at Pomd’or, Valira, Industrias Cosmic, Bustper. Founder of the company that designed and marketed VANDISS, high-end bathroom accessories. Curator of the exhibition on the evolution of the videogame at the Museu de les Terres de l’Ebre in 2019 as well as direction of the VAG Experience 2019 and development of VAG Kids 2020.
Interest in digital modelling and additive technologies
What led me to use 3D printing was above all the fact that I could use this technology which is quite fast, be able to see what you have on screen and have the volume in your hands in a relatively short time and quite cheaply. It’s mainly the speed of having what you see on the screen, being able to touch it, being able to validate it physically. You can even make small special or customised series.
Use of digital technologies
You might say that everything designed without a pen and paper is digital. From working on the product in 3D using software to doing presentations or working with digital tablets to bring (by hand) analogical design closer to the digital world. Almost all the projects I do sooner or later are done digitally, but I have to say that I love drawing and jotting down notes in A4 sketchbooks using ink pens because of the texture and feeling of drawing or taking notes. Even though I start on “paper”, most of the time as the design progresses I start working digitally.
I don't like to say specific names of design references. For me, my references are what you see every day, everything around you. Today everything's changing and you have to keep your eyes open. Being a designer implies being one 24/7. You see a movie and you notice what’s in it, a piece of furniture, a product, etc. You see new products coming onto the market and you notice how they're made, the materials... You have to be observing all the time, even nature: maybe you’re taking a walk and you see the shape of a tree and that gives you an idea. I think you should notice everything around you.
Initial goal and problem
In this case study, Valentí explains the process of prototyping and manufacturing a very simple product, a wooden spoon, but which requires a great deal of work with the craftsman.
If we analyse one of the challenges I was faced with we could talk about the wooden spoon project. The briefing was to design a spoon that could be delivered to the customer with their order, that could be served at the table, and that their customer could then bring home from the restaurant as a complementary gift.
This project is for a customer who's in London, it’s a fairly high-end restaurant so they wanted the spoon to convey a feeling of tradition and quality.
The customer asked me for a spoon that was very traditional, that was made with a material from the lands of the Ebro River, a natural material, with a certain quality level.
Thanks to the 3D printing and thanks to the feedback I had from the craftsman they were almost no disadvantages in this design. When you already have a very clear idea, you have the volume, and then the help of the craftsman or supplier you're working with, that already guides what they can do. There were really more advantages than anything else.
Sources of inspiration
I was inspired by the handmade spoons made with olive trees from Montsià, specifically from La Sénia. I went to see the craftsman so that I could discuss with him how he made them and the shape... Being able to have a sample in their actual sizes and volume helped us get a final product very quickly.
To start the project, I analysed the spoons sold by markets, craftsmen, and specialised shops, and the ones restaurants used when you ordered a rice dish (dish the spoon was for). Normally they served it with normal soup spoons so the wooden one could be a little bigger but not too much bigger to be able to use it to serve or to eat straight out of the paella pan. With that information, I started to make sketches and drawings with the relevant sizes and ran size and comfort of use tests.
I always like to write down ideas and do freehand drawings in special DIN-A4 notebooks, specifically for drawing with a pen or pencil. The feeling of Indian ink on paper is just perfect to me and it helps me draw...
To do the prototyping you first have to have designed your volume in 3D on the computer and validate it on the screen. Once that’s done, you move it into STL and then from there the printer translates it to the code it needs.
It’s very simple and practical because you have your product on an SD card. You just have to plug it into the printer and print.
Tools and materials
I usually use PLA - a natural filament - or PTG, which is a more industrial plastic, although it's recyclable and lasts a bit longer. I've used ABS but it’s frowned upon and somewhat toxic at the print level; I try to avoid it.
I like PLA the best because it has a very fluid print, you can see the volume perfectly and it’s very easy to use, you can scratch it, cut it, you can do whatever you want. It’s enough to see the volume, because sometimes as a final product it's not 100% up to the quality level, but really to validate the idea and show it to the supplier or customer, it's more than enough.
If you need a harder prototype, a more resistant prototype, there are other materials. There are also other levels of printers, like resin printers, to make smaller pieces, with more detail...
Sometimes people say that 3D tech is really expensive, but if you think about it, a CNC machine is much harder to have in a studio. Having one or two 3D printers or five 3D printers, one for PLA, one specifically for PLS, another for resin... You can easily have all those tools in the studio to work with, to be able to make the first prototypes and above all to show the customer or the supplier a real piece.
Problems when prototyping
When you do a 3D print, you have to be careful because the printer can move a little or skew the calibration. If you print the project, you leave, and you're not paying attention, all you need is for a tiny cut of print or for it to be calibrated wrong and you might have lost 10 hours of work when you get back. Sometimes what I do is set up a camera to record the process. That lets you know exactly when a problem occurs, lets you stop the printing, and instead of 10, you might lose three hours.
The move from prototype to manufacturing was really fast. We already had the volume, the sizes validated, the customer liked the design and the measurements...
And the collaboration with the craftsman was very easy: he made other very similar spoons and all we had to do was adapt to the shapes we had.
At the end all we had to do was decided the units we were going to manufacture, run a few quick tests to validate, and then give the ok to greenlight the small initiate series.
Once finished, we send the customer the finished piece, with the laser mark, with the protective wax...
No assembly required in this case.
In this project no advertising or distribution was necessary since it was a signature product designed upon request for the restaurant.