POP - 3D metal panels
High tech material modification with innovative output. The standard engraving process creates highly refined cut-out patterns in metal, but this partnership aims to go one step further and really challenge the boundaries and characteristics of sheet steel material, focussing on volume and 3D surfaces.
The idea is to create a collection of very thin, modular steel room dividers and to research this most appropriate material for creating thin sheets of steel with large size engraving technology (as used in electronics). Instead of engraving small items -such as components of complex products- the partnership will engrave large format metal plates with complex patterns, embedding the method of transforming flat sheets of material into lively surfaces with new characteristics. During the project, a material library of steel, 3D surfaces will be created, as well as a modular system to connect larger pieces, creating an easily adaptable system for the consumer. The project aims to develop enhanced properties for engraved steel panels (strength, durability, aesthetics), which are usually used in electronics for high precision screen-printing. This time, it will be applied to aesthetically enhance the steel sheets with new characteristics, such as transparency, three-dimensional structures and reflection.
When A+N and Caino Design met at London Design Fair in 2017, they immediately saw a potential collaboration. Soon they collaborated with each other on a few projects, always from a client-contractor relationship, in which A+N were designing innovative designs, and Caino was executing them in a very refined way. A quest for innovation and stretching boundaries, both in material application as in the technical production process is what we both share. So when in 2019 Caino Design attended the presentation of Worth Project in Turin it fascinated immediately. Both companies always had the dream to experiment together in a co-creative process, both offering expertise throughout the whole process. The worth project enabled us to do so, to not only work in a client- contractor relationship, as is most common in the design field, but to really dive into the research together and combine Caino’s cutting edge production technique and A+N’s design perspective and working method. We immediately realized we could be the perfect partners for this trans-European project, zooming into material and production to create new ways of application.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT
As A+N is experienced in manipulating flat materials into 3D volumes, the pop-up folding concept was an obvious choice. We focused on using various folding techniques to enhance the stainless-steel material in multiple ways, asking ourselves the questions: What if we treat very thin metal panels as paper? What if we apply A+N’s way of material manipulation to it? What new characteristics can we give steel, to enhance the material to be of an addition to our living environment? The engraving technique originating from electronics, which is upscaled by Caino Design to be able to apply to the design field, was a perfect fit for A+N’s refined way of working. The focus on three- dimensionality was also a substantive choice, based on the view we both have on interior design: the enrichment of spaces with innovative materials, changing the experience of our environment. The focus on fold-out patterns with various techniques introduced another interesting element; that of the customers interaction with the material, being able to fold it themselves. Caino already had experience in this way of involving the customer, as they offer a metal disk that can be transformed into a lampshade through a unique and interactive experience in shaping by hand. The real value of our project is the possibility of interpretation by the user (private or professional), with subsequent customization of the object in the setting.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
We started by experimenting with the material in small samples, creating a 3D patterns library. It was necessary to test different types of models and evaluate the behaviour of the metal from a user interaction perspective. This led to a wide variation of folding techniques, creating various enhanced characteristics, think of transparency, catching light and reflection of colours. The creative design process was complex and since we were admitted late among the winners, time was very short. We had to rigidly schedule the design, test phases, manufacturing, and in the era of COVID-19 it was a challenge. On the other hand, the short process resulted in a very close relationship between partners, with short lines. Maybe in the end, this pressure cooker environment did lead to a lot of experiments, and now it’s time to take a step back to take new ones forward.
A strong part of the process is the emphasis on the application: how to create large scale surfaces? How can we make our pop-up patterns grow and cover whole interior facades? We focussed on new ways of connecting, creating specific connection pieces that blend into one design, but also other more generic pieces that can be attached in a very straightforward way, and applied to different designs. We created a strong basis together and see a lot of potential in the further development of the connection pieces to create a wide collection of modular designs, enabling the client to connect the pieces together to create large scale surfaces.
When there are people with different traditions who aim at the same goal, it is so interesting to see the various approaches. In addition, the pure designer’s point of view is different from that of an industrial design /manufacturer company. Different perspectives make the collaboration and the search for new solutions to offer to the market richer and more conscious. A constant interplay, adding knowledge from different perspectives has not only made the design of better quality, but also laid a strong basis for future developments. We really know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and have developed a strong, collaborative working method.
We trust that our POP collection, which is the tangible result of the Worth project, can meet the clients’ creative needs and result in profitable outcome for our companies. We are confident after displaying the prototypes we will have an important feedback from the field. This will help us to set the most suitable commercial policy and hopefully reach satisfactory results. Next to bringing to the market the designs we created within Worth, we also detect value in expanding the collection in multiple new styles and sizes, to appeal to markets like high end interior architecture in hospitality, office and public space design.
Working in partnership always means acting in a wider perspective, and this is good. Working with partners of different cultures results in something more valuable: a wider, deeper, and diverse perspective and understanding of each other. This is a perfect way to broaden our views and internally enrich ourselves and our partners. Exchanging ideas, growing in experience, finding better solutions for improving our lives finally results in value for the community.