BIOMIMICRY. The 3D printed soft seat. (+Interview)

Dutch Industrial designer Lilian Van Daal has created a soft-seat inspired by nature & plant cells using the very versatile 3Dprinting technology’. With BIOMIMICRY 3D printed soft seat , as it is called, she thought of a new concept to make the production of soft seating more sustainable through 3D printing & It can definitely prove to be a viable alternative for the Conventional & current soft-seats.

”In nature many structures are found that we are not able to produce with normal production techniques. 3D printing however does make it possible to reproduce these complex structures. In this way a product can be created from one material in one factory, although it has the properties of various materials. Pollution caused by transportation can be minimized.”

“The chair has the potential to be completely recyclable because of the use of one single material & its production does not result in unusable waste.”.- Lilian Van Daal.

The first working prototype has been made possible by 3D Systems Benelux.

BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.
BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.

We talk to Lilian Van Daal about the design.

Hi Lilian ! Can you please tell us about the design ?

“A chair or sofa is made to support the human body as efficiently as possible. To reach a maximum level of comfort, various materials are used for different functions:

  • Foam in varying degrees of hardness for micro and macro support
  • Textiles for ventilation and good tactile qualities, colour and texture
  • Hard synthetic fibres, wood or metal for the support construction “

“To reach an end product, all these materials are manufactured in different places, transported and processed in the final assembly. This process is labour-intensive and involves extensive transport, cutting waste and environmentally-unfriendly processes such as gluing. The final result is a product that cannot be recycled due to the fact that the various parts/materials can no longer be separated.”

In this Project, I have studied structures from nature that combine various qualities in a single material. I have used 3-D printing to imitate these structures as freely as possible. I have selected the best working principles for each function from a large number of test samples. By varying the structure in various parts of the product, I have succeeded in realizing that not only the supporting Structure but also micro and macro support, ventilation and the skin of the product can be produced using just one material. By printing the final product, I have been able to make a chair which cannot be manufactured using the current mass production methods.”

“This chair is fully recyclable and its production does not result in unusable waste. The production of the chair does not require the use of poisonous glue materials. It offers possibilities for local production and therefore, local employment, and leads to reduction of transport costs.”

BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.
BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.

What was the inspiration behind  BIOMIMICRY 3D printed soft seat ? What was the thought behind this project ?

“Nature is the best inspiration when you want to create sustainable processes or products. In nature nothing is unuseful or superfluous. The evolution exists for 3.8 billion years. When you put these 3.8 billion years in one single year, the industrial revolution would not even last a second of this year. So why should we use only this last second for all our problems. We should look at this whole year.”

What was your main Focus, what did you have in mind while designing the BIOMIMICRY 3D printed soft seat ?

“The production process of soft-seating is very old fashioned and unsustainable. My focus was: With a single material and various structures, how can you can create all the properties you need.”

BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.
BIOMIMICRY 3D-printed soft seat by Lilian Van Daal.

The 3d printing technology is being used in Manufacturing process & Would this Project still be Possible without the 3d printing tech ?

“3d printing is a perfect way to grow material, just like nature does. I think there are more ways to grow material more natural and I really want to do research on other ways of growing materials.”

Can you please tell us about the Manufacturing Process ?

“First you have to model the product in a software program. This was very hard, because I wanted to automatically generate the lattice structures based on the properties or functions I gave to this product. So I’ve modelled the whole piece manually.”

“Because of all the developments in technology, the way of designing has changed. Until recently we were accustomed to force a material into the desired shape but now we can use material in a totally different way. We have become more inspired by nature and want to simulate and generate the most optimal structure based on the different properties in the product. So we want to design the behavior instead of designing the fixed shapes. Software should respond to these new possibilities.”

“After modelling the product I sent the 3d file to 3D systems, I’ve worked together with 3D systems to produce the models I have. They’ve printed the model. It took 96 hours to print a scale model from 45x45x45cm.”

Given the resources available, is Biomimicry manufacturable as of right now ? If not, How close is it to becoming a Reality?

“It´s not manufacturable yet, because the technology is not that far developed. When it is, it definitely will become reality. It´s just a matter of time.”

What are Materials that will be used in production of the Biomimicry? and are you planning to use any ORGANIC materials ?

“Offcourse I’m planning to use Organic materials, this is my ultimate goal. I’m developing the project together with other companies and I’m doing research on large scale techniques and after this I’m going to start a research on Bio materials.”

What is that One thing that will appeal to people the most about the BIOMIMICRY?

“The fact that it´s only one material but has different functions like Flexibility on top and Stiffness in the construction. People are surprised when they press on top of the models and feel that it´s soft. Also the structures are appealing to people, they are interested in how it´s made.”

How do think will the BIOMIMICRY affect the Future of Design & the Industry as a whole ?

“I hope my project will trigger people to look differently to the problems we have with producing products. And I think with all the developments in technology it will become more easy to create bio inspired products or processes and in this way we can be more sustainable.”

Are there any Medical benefits related to the BIOMIMICRY?

“I think this concept can be used for a lot of different Industries, so also the medical industry.”

If you could, how would you describe the BIOMIMICRY concept in a word ?


and in a sentence ?

“With one material and different structures you can create all the properties you need.”

“Every DESIGN reflects the Values & Character of it’s Designer in itself” How does this apply to You & BIOMIMICRY ?

“As a designer I’m always looking for the essence of a product and it´s production process. For me nature is the best example of essence. Nothing is superfluous in nature and that´s why nature is my biggest inspiration.”

Is BIOMIMICRY environment-friendly ? Would it be one of it’s strong points ?

“I’m looking for biological & organic materials and when 3D printing will become more efficient and less energy intensive, than this project will definitely be environmentally friendly. This is one of the key points of the project.”

What do you think the future of BIOMIMICRY will be? Do you see it as an actual Product being sold in the market or It will remain just as a concept & you will continue to keep on exploring more about it ?

“For now it´s still a concept and I´m still exploring the concept to know more about it and finally developing products with this principle.”

Would you say that BIOMIMICRY is your favourite project out of all your projects ?

“Yes it defenitely is. And I hope there will be more projects like this in the future!”

We thank Lilian Van Daal for taking time out to talk about her amazing work.

About Lillian Van Daal.

Lilian Van Daal.
Lilian Van Daal.

Lilian van Daal (1988), graduated from Industrial Product Design HAN–Arnhem in 2010 and in January 2014 she graduated from the Postgraduate Course Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art – The Hague.

Besides her own work, she has worked for Studio Drift, Feiz Design and Bleijh Concept & Design. She started in 2010 with working as junior designer at StudioMOM, where she still works.

You can find more of Lilian’s work here at

her Website : (Here).

& you can Connect with her on Twitter @liliandaal

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