Although support material is a necessary part of the additive manufacturing process, it is far from desirable due to the time required to carefully remove it and finalize a print’s surface quality. But what if the support material became an actual part of the design of a product itself?

In a recent collaboration with Materialise, Eindhoven-based design studio Unfold explored how using support structure-generating software (in this case, Materialise’s e-Stage software) could be a final step in the design process – particularly, how could the otherwise discarded support structure be a desirable component of the final design?

The project was partly inspired by the studio’s own longstanding fascination with “process as aesthetic” – a refreshing take on industrial design that celebrates the steps of getting to a final product rather than the final product itself. In the case of these pieces specifically, the designers found inspiration from utilitarian neo-gothic industrial architecture and the work of Bernd & Hilla Becher.


To create the pieces, simple shapes were fed into the Materialise e-Stage software to generate desirable geometric patterns in the support structure – which were then printed using stereolithography and cast in bronze. Interestingly enough, the actual structures that they generated support structures for were never printed and instead made it to the final product in glass and wood.


“It was interesting for us to ‘design’ with the e-Stage software which tunes into our fascination for processes where you ride on the edge of control,” said designer Dries Verbruggen, who founded Unfold along with fellow Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Claire Warnier in 2002.



The experimental project – appropriately titled Skafaldo – will be presented at Milan Design Week 2016 next week.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.