Grohe’s 3D-printed faucet is just “one possibile future”. The interview with Michael Seum

With the brand's VP we discussed about water, sustainability, and the future of design.

During ISH 2019 in Frankfurt, the German company Grohe unveiled new coloured and ceramics products, a new bathroom collection called Plus, and enchanted the fair the world’s first 3D printed faucets. They were showcased on stage by Michael Seum, Vice President of Design for Grohe since 2015. In his career, the 42-years-old designer has worked for Kohler, Sterling, Whirlpool and more. When asked about what are, in his opinion, the main trends of a fair where radical new designs of kitchens and concepts of bathrooms are showcased, he straightly answers: “Sustainability“. It’s not only his answer, but that of a company that’s been rapidly changing in the last few years. “We are going from products to solutions, we can’t think about a single product these days, there must be a bigger story and meaning”. For example, Grohe’s systems for filtered unbottled water. “Kitchen’s faucet is not a faucet anymore, it’s a beverage system”, Mr Seum explains. You can have still, medium or sparkling water straight from the tap with Grohe Blue, while Gorhe Red spills boiling hot water on demand.

Grohe Allure Brilliant Icon 3D

A large part of Grohe’s keynote in Frankfurt was dedicated to plastic pollution and how a system like this can help fighting it. "Single-use plastic water is something we have to get rid of”, Seum comments. “One bottle of water is 70 times the amount of water to produce it, and if it doesn’t get recycled it ends in the ground or in the oceans”. Sustainability is also involved in the brand’s new project: two futuristic faucets produced with metal 3D-printing. Their names are Atrio Icon 3D and Allure Brilliant Icon 3D. "This is a very special project”, Michael Seum explains. “I’ve been working with 3D printing all my career, but in the prototyping stage. This is the first time that we go on from design concept to produce part”. Atrio Icon 3D, along with Grohe Red and Grohe Blue, will be found in Europe’s very first underwater restaurant, Under by Snøhetta, opening in April. “What we’re doing in Grohe is not only about design, but also concerning the physical quality of water”.

Grohe Atrio Icon 3D

How does the 3D printing process work?
You have a bed of powder and there’s a rake in the corner that pushes a very thin layer of material and then a laser burns it, guided by a pattern.

How much time does it take to produce one faucet?
Each layer takes maybe ten minutes. And any layer is as thin as your hair, maybe thinner. The process is not very fast. Yet. We can produce 2, maybe 3 faucets a day.

3D printing is fancy. What are its actual advantages?
Look at the Atrio Icon 3D: it’s so thin! But if you look at it on the other side, it shows a completely different approach. This technology gives us different ways to translate different forms. That’s something that we can do only with this new system and not with the traditional method.

I’ve been working with 3D printing all my career, but in the prototyping stage. This is the first time that we go on from design concept to produce part.

Do you think that consumers will print their own faucets one day, maybe on your design?
I don’t think so. But that could be possible.

But will Grohe print them all directly?
Maybe not.

During the keynote, you said that customization is another key element in 3D-printing.
Yes, with 3D printing it’s easy to customize every single part. So if you want the faucet just a bit longer, we can do it.

Could customers design their own faucets?
I think that design meets what consumer needs. And consumers don’t want to enter in the designing part too much.

Is 3D printing the future of this industry?
Maybe this is not happening in the future, but it could be. This is not ‘the’ future maybe, but one possible future for sure. Consumer doesn’t care if it’s 3D printing, but if the product is good. 

Has the Icon 3D project changed your approach to design?
Yes, it has changed the way that I design. And it will do it more in the future when this method of production will become more accessible.

3D-printed faucets
Atrio Icon 3D and Allure Brilliant Icon 3D

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