This post is also available in: Italiano

The Milan Design Week 2018 proved to be an event of strong international appeal with a perceptible growth in the number of visitors both at the Salone del Mobile and at the events scheduled at the Fuorisalone districts. We were there and we offer you some of the creative and technological ideas that emerged during the most dynamic week of the year.


The need to customize a product, both in terms of its characteristics and the client’s wishes, is becoming a real staple in corporate marketing and communication strategies. The showrooms and flagship stores of the main furniture brands showed off their latest cutting-edge 3D configurators. Many immersive experiences were on display, including installations in virtual reality and applications in augmented reality that were spread out throughout the city

Dassault_MDW_2018_01 VR

The experiences in VR were among the main attractions of the Design Week 2018 and they were able to attract many visitors both because of their content and for the general curiosity for wearing a headset and immersing yourself in a world built entirely in 3D (credits Dassault Systemes)

The icons of design cannot escape from the “mandate” of customization. A case in point is MINI, Inspired by Origins. Next to the futuristic Mini Vision Next 100 concept, BMW has chosen to revive some great classics in a limited version offer, like the Mini Paul Smith, to coincide with the launch of its custom accessories line for current models.


MINI. Inspired by origins. The creative history of MINI is on display at the Milan Triennale. From the classic models, with the first concept by Sir Alec Issigonis, to the futuristic prototype of the Next 100 series, where the BMW technological imprint emerges clearly. On the right the famous custom livery by Paul Smith, produced in a limited edition at the beginning of the Seventies (credits and

In the halls of the Milan Triennale Martinelli Luce proposed 23 variations of a great classic of its collection: the Cobra lamp. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the original model by Elio Martinelli has been reinterpreted by famous designers like Karim Rashid, Alessandro Mendini and Marc Sadler. Cobra Texture is the initiative to launch the contest for designers Under 35: Cobra Re-Loaded, which allows everyone to download the 3D model of the lamp and customize it with their own texture. The first prize offered by the Lucca-based company is the inclusion in the catalog, including royalties; an opportunity not to be missed by designers looking for visibility.

martinelli cobra texture 3d

The 23 versions of Cobra Texture featured at the Design Week 2018 (credits Martinelli Luce)

The use of patterns is another option to customize furniture and design solutions. The use of graphic patterns was one of the main protagonists of the proposal by LAGO which relied on the staging by Italianism and on the creative inspiration of no less than 41 visual artists. After all, patterns are also a way to visually tell a story.


One of the 41 patterns proposed by Italianism for the staging of the exhibition “Come si dice Pattern in Italiano?” [“How do you say Pattern in Italian?”] by LAGO at Design Week 2018. Work by Livia Massaccesi. (Credits by design playground)


The use of 3D printing for design prototypes is now becoming a common practice and the most prevailing procedure given the increasing availability of materials and technologies. The idea on which we want to focus concerns the larger scale, that of the building. 3D |Housing05 is the innovative concept of a house printed in 3D on site, based on a project by CLS Architects, in collaboration with Italcementi, Arup and Cybe. Beyond the dialectic expressed by the declared desire to “improve the quality of life through the technology revolution”, the five foundational points – Creativity, Sustainability, Flexibility, Low cost and Speed – take shape thanks to the action of a robotic arm, able to create, layer by layer, the entire building envelope.

This is not, as mistakenly reported by some media, the first house printed in 3D (WASP has been experimenting on the subject for many years, Ed.), but it is certainly an evolution of the concept of building thanks to the contribution of Robotics which, using a “practical” extruder, offers a concrete alternative to a 3D printer with a huge print area. The concept of flexible construction, while having great potential, is still far from being able to be used on a large scale. In particular, the limits that will have to be overcome are related to the automation of the robot and the durability of the materials. Today the robot is able to create each individual piece by numerical control, but it is not able to move following the coordinates that would allow it to autonomously construct the entire building. It is necessary to move it “manually” to the various parts to be made. The fully eco-sustainable intent provides for the use of a material that can be crumbled and reused in other contexts, to make new homes. It is a suggestive vision, but the first practical consideration in view of any practical implementation is that, in addition to marketing, more certainties will be needed. They will arrive, but it is clear that the times are not yet ripe for a massive diffusion of 3D printing for architecture.

In terms of formal expression, the results achieved are absolutely promising, as are the execution times, which see the construction of a single level home of about 100 square meters in less than a week. Now that the media machine has been turned off, all that remains is to await the next developments.

3D|Housing05 coniuga la ricerca in molti ambiti tecnologici, che spaziano dall'architettura all'interior design, dai materiali alla produzione (credits Italcementi)

3D |Housing05 combines research in many technological fields, ranging from architecture to interior design, from materials to production (credits Italcementi)

3d housing 05 interiors 3d

A glimpse of the interior. The minimal furniture is well suited to the strongly material feel of the walls created in 3D printing, where we find a strong expression of the so-called “layer effect”, alternating with smooth finishes and stone cladding which alternate warm and cool colors in a balanced way. (Credits Italcementi)

3dhousing05_stampa 3d

Cybe’s robot in action to create the 3D printed house by CLS Architetti on site (credits Italcementi)


Every year the Design Week renews its appointment with experimentation. New functions and new forms obtainable thanks to the use of new 3D tools are increasingly featured both in the design and in the production of elements. This is the case of the installation made for Dassault Systemés by Kengo Kuma. Breath/ng is a spiral concept consisting of 120 origami panels created by Anemotech with a particular fabric that is able to capture the polluting molecules that are found in the atmosphere. The work of the Japanese starchitect was the main attraction of the Design in the Age of Experience event proposed by Dassault at Superstudio, historical location of the Tortona Design District.

Breath/ng, with its architectural suggestion, is the result of the combined use of many 3D technologies, from the design tools of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 printers, fundamental in the creation of dozens of joints that were all different from each other.

Dassault_MDW_2018_03 breath ng 3D Kuma

The 3D model of Breath/ng was designed in CATIA; the famous CAD/CAM by Dassault, which allows the management of the numerically controlled production of the elements (credits Dassault Systémes)

Dassault_MDW_2018_04 breath ng 3D Kuma

The joints of the Breath/ng structure were made using 3D printing thanks to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology. The entire installation (on the left) is about six meters high and consists of 120 panels joined by 46 joints, with multi-directional carbon fiber connecting arms (credits Dassault Systemés)

Oyster, the seating concept proposed by Arturo Tedeschi, uses traditional production via CNC milling but very innovative design tools. The prototype was designed with Rhinoceros thanks to the integration of the VR tool Mindesk VR, software developed by the homonymous Italian startup, currently located in San Francisco. Oyster is a concrete case of how today it is possible to design directly in Virtual Reality, as we saw in our recent article dedicated to VR Design Tools


MindeskVR is a Rhino plugin that allows you to design with a Virtual Reality interface. The advantages of this workflow are a much more direct approach to design which takes place directly in a three-dimensional space (credits MindeskVR)

Far from being able to offer a comprehensive review of the more than 4000 events that characterized the Design Week 2018, we hope to have offered you some ideas for investigation and reflection useful for your upcoming experiences in 3D. The appointment is already set for next year, for another week not to be missed under the banner of Design and Innovation.

This post is also available in: Italiano

Related Articles

About author View all posts Author website

Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.