A student turns a digital design class project into a successful product by embracing additive manufacturing


When designer and engineer Sean Kim ripped the fabric off his Akari lamp, he saw an opportunity. Instead of throwing away her leftover material, Kim decided to use the resources at her disposal to create a new lampshade. As a student at the Pratt Institute, he used a wide variety of machines and software to design products. He used a parametric design task in Henry Yoo’s “Digital Ideation” course to experiment with making a lampshade to his own specifications.

“After fixing the lamp, I thought it was a shame not to do something else with the shape, after spending so much time on it,” Kim said, “so I developed my own base and also lighting equipment.”

Kim’s end product was the Wavy Lamp, a unique avant-garde take on classic home decor. This fluid jellyfish-inspired design emits a warm glow with an aesthetic that’s both minimalistic and experimental. While it retains the papery look of an Akari lamp, the curved, asterisk-shaped shade and base are 3D printed from heat-resistant corn plastic. The result is a sturdy product that is not only durable, but long lasting. Kim uses additive manufacturing for extremely low-waste construction, and nearly the entire lamp is compostable.

While it started out as a lasting response to a personal issue, Kim was inspired to sell a few lamps after receiving positive responses to her posts about the design process on social media.

“I sold five very quickly to friends and family, and decided (a bit on a whim) to try posting a classified ad on Instagram to see if a stranger would be interested,” he said via email. “It quickly accelerated from there.”

Kim has produced over 1,000 units since, and the Wavy Lamp has appeared in articles by Elle Decor, GQ, The Strategist and Sight Unseen. The portability of the design made it relatively easy for Kim to install new machines and meet growing demand. He hopes the success of his rapidly growing studio will challenge assumptions about the sustainability of large-scale manufacturing.

“My goal as a designer is to allow greater accessibility to ‘designed objects’ while remaining small,” Kim said. “We use 3D printing to create molds that would be very difficult to produce traditionally. I think this combination of craftsmanship and digital technology offers some interesting possibilities, which I have tried to explore further.”

The eclectic, high-quality design of the Wavy lamp and its innovative processes make this product a resounding success. This eye-catching object proves that with the right tools, independent designers can make durable, high-quality products.

The Wavy Lamp is an outstanding entrant in the Furniture and Lighting category of the Core77 Design Awards 2021. You can discover all the 2021 winners now on the Core77 Design Awards website.


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