Developed in collaboration with friend and Design Strategist Joe Carpita, Parallel Goods aims to revolutionize the way products are created and distributed. In recent years there has been a staggering rise in the popularity of affordable 3D printers for the casual consumer. But there lacks a selection of thoughtful, useful objects to print. Our vision is to make good design accessible by embracing this new technology.
Download + Learn at www.parallelgoods.co
Blog coverage in PSFK
Interview on All3DP
Self watering planter on Thingiverse (20,000+ downloads!!)
Way back in winter of 2013 my friend and frequent collaborator Joe Carpita told me he was getting a 3D printer. He said they were becoming more affordable, that he had just got a kit on kickstarter for a thousand dollars or so and he would have it up and running in a few months. We had both toyed around with printers at previous jobs, usually big industrial-strength Objet or Dimension machines, but they were used strictly for prototyping our Industrial Design projects. After Joe got his machine up and running he asked me to design something for him to print, anything.
Self-Watering Planter Development
The section for this planter had been kicking around in my head for a few months, and after a few false starts it just sort of materialized one evening. After lots of pushing and pulling to make it printable, things resolved into a pretty efficient package
Working through the limitations of at-home FDM printers was a crucial part of developing the design of these parts. The funnel shape of the planter pot is a perfect example. We wanted to avoid support material, so overhangs are limited to 45°
After our first success we set out to explore how we might create a brand of products like this. Our objective was to seek out a new audience for 3D printed goods. Looking around at communities like Thingiverse, there’s a focus on educational markets, hardcore makers, inventors and tinkerers. There was no platform for developing a design-centric brand, so we set out to create our own. The fundamental difference here is that we’re targeting users who shop at CB2 or Umbra more than they do at Microcenter. This would prove to be a big challenge.
Brand Positioning Chart
Brand positioning matrix created by my esteemed co-founder Joe Carpita.
The Desk Collection
For our first few projects, we didn’t even know if we could print the objects successfully. We were asking ourselves, Is it possible to make a water-tight print? Can you make functional furniture from this stuff? We worked with Slic3r to optimize settings for printing, and produced many, many iterations. The hardest part was balancing durability (whether water-tight or structural, for example) against print speed, cost and aesthetics. Sure, a print with 100% infill would probably be really strong, but it’s not feasible in any other way. We pride our work on the balance of these elements.
Designers often talk about using material in an honest fashion. The way you design for injection-molded ABS differs greatly from say slip-cast ceramic, or machined aluminum. Up to this point 3D printing has just been a medium for prototyping, an intermediate step between idea and finished product. We make it our business to explore how to make 3D printable products functional and desirable, as well as printable. A lot goes into this, knowing that most of our customers have consumer-grade printers with small build platforms and limited ability to generate supports. So this drives many of our decisions. We keep overhangs to a conservative 45° and try to create clean bases that will adhere to print beds easily, for example.
So we developed a framework for how to design, now the question is what do we design? Something that struck us about the files available at the time was that they were all piecemeal. A good idea here and there, but nothing holistic. We wanted to organize our ideas into collections of objects that compliment each other. We knew from the start that the collection had to include a DIY element, so we brought more durable materials into the mix. The sawhorse requires lumber commonly available at home centers and some basic hardware. It’s a little bit more commitment than the planter or the desk organizer. We wanted to create a range of products to allow users to engage in our brand however they wish.
Then there is the element of cost. We had a lot of discussion about how much to charge for our products, if we should charge at all. When the going rate for 3D files is free, we knew there wasn’t a ton of room to shake things up. We settled on $1.99. This number serves a few purposes. It’s often said about art that if you don’t charge the right price for it, people won’t feel that it’s worth anything. We know that there is opposition to paying for products of this nature, but we feel that it’s important to incentivize designers to share their work. $1.99 is within the range of impulse buy, much like the App store. It’s cheap enough that you may not think twice, and it serves as a deterrent to those who might say, I'll just find a free version somewhere else. Would you rather spend $2 and get it now, or invest time scouring the internet for a free version? As is the case with the rest of this project, it’s experimental and it will continue to evolve.
The Entryway Collection
Released - Fall 2016
Joe Carpita - Co-Founder
Craig Stover - Co-Founder / Design Lead
Dan Schaumann - Designer
Darek Piech - Designer
For the second collection we brought in two more designers to work on the theme of the entryway. Some of the big objectives were: create low-commitment products, things that print quickly and cheaply. Explore new ways of incorporating durable material (like a cord light) that enable customization. Build on the element of customization, knowing that users seem to get excited by the ability to mix and match part colors to their taste. We also sought to push the boundaries of nesting parts, mechanical snaps and material tolerance. This proved to be especially challenging.
The Wall Sconce Bracket combines all of these aspirations. It allows users to show off their favorite cord light, match the colors however they choose. It prints quickly, and it comes together with a level of mechanical refinement not typical of 3d printed goods. All while avoiding the use of supports and printing easily on any consumer-grade FDM machine.
With this new collection, we're continuing our push to attract aesthetically-inclined makers. That manifests itself in everything from the types of products we pursue, to the brand of filament we use, to the way the work is photographed. We wanted to really bring attention to the fact that these products are versatile and customizable. Though our brand has an aesthetic and a voice of its own, the possibilities for how users interpret and make it their own is endless. As Design Lead, I want our brand to stand up to any high-end housewares company. I firmly believe that 3D printable products will become commonplace, but It’s up to us as designers to show the world what’s possible and lower the barrier to acceptance with useful, beautiful products.
What have we learned so far? Not surprisingly, people love free stuff. The response to our self-watering planter on Thingiverse was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of downloads and lots of successful makes in a short peroid of time. Nearly everyone who tries is able to print water-tight successfully. We’ve learned that users don’t really mind prints that take 8 or 10 hours to finish. They can replicate specific print settings and don’t seem to mind doing so. Thingiverse has been by-far our largest source of traffic. There’s an incredible pool of motivated, enthusiastic users there. We’re still trying to balance our desire to reach a more design-savvy maker with the realities of the current market. It's a big challenge, but we're just getting started
Have a look at what we've created so far - www.parallelgoods.co