3d Printing with sand

Interview with sandhelden, a creative manufactory and bathroom brand for 3D printed and art made of sand.

How did Sandhelden come to exist?

Sandhelden was founded with the idea to produce sanitary products (sinks, etc.) with exclusive designs. The production of individual pieces with conventional materials such as ceramics was often not possible and we started looking for alternatives. In this process we got in touch with 3D sand printing. Suddenly the focus was no longer on the product, but on the technology. The possibilities with the material and 3D printing are immense and we are constantly looking for exciting projects to show what is possible. Besides this, we are also very successful with our sanitary products and are the only ones worldwide in the market to offer 3D printed washbasins.

What are the processes involved in 3D printing with sand?

Our manufacturing process must be divided into two stages. On the one hand, the 3D sand printing process itself, which is mainly used in the classic foundry industry. This process consists of two steps. First, the printing itself and second, the finishing and removal of loose sand.  This is necessary because we have a layering process and always fill complete printing boxes. The loose sand must then be removed from the components.

The second stage is the post-processing and was specially developed by us. The 3D-printed components made of sand are generally rather unstable and not durable. We take these parts and basically harden them. By doing this we can guarantee the application of our material in various areas. We can also process them further like dyeing, grinding, etc.

What are the benefits of working with 3D printed sand?

There are three big advantages that we can offer with 3D sand printing. On the one hand, we are one of the largest suppliers in additive manufacturing when it comes to the amount of printing space. 

We can print in a dimension of 4000 x 2000 x 1000 mm. Due to the layering process (binder jetting), the installation space can be used for one large component or for several small ones. Accordingly, we can also produce medium-sized series. Another advantage is the speed. The above mentioned space can be printed within 24 hours, which makes our process one of the fastest in the industry. Finally, the material is very important to us. We do not use plastics or anything similar, but use a natural raw material.

Why is 3D printed sand the material of the future?

We only use quartz sand in our production, which is locally mined. This allows us to use a raw material that we can find and use in its natural form. The issue of sustainability is playing an increasingly important role nowadays and we can guarantee this to our customers with regard to the material. Of course, we can optimise many things much further and have made this our task. In addition, everyone often has a positive relationship with sand, which is why many of our customers appreciate the material right from the start. Especially in artistic and creative industries.

Why and how did you start to collaborate with creatives to create artistic objects using your production techniques?

As already mentioned, we started out by manufacturing our own sanitary products. However, we quickly realized that we could do more than just that. 3D printing gives us new possibilities - in terms of design - that are not possible with classic manufacturing methods. We can also produce anything from individual pieces to medium-sized series without a great deal of effort. This is more or less irrelevant for the 3D printer. However, the decisive factor to offer us as a creative manufacturer was the material sand itself. It is a high-quality material that is appealing in its appearance and also for the haptics. 

Therefore, we do not regard it as a technical material, but ideally suited for creative and artistic applications. Together with the sizes we can print, it is perfect for this.

How do you select the creatives you want to collaborate with?

Generally speaking, we do not have a specific scheme for selecting our partners. Every project is different and we always want to show new possibilities of technology. That's why we don't want to restrict ourselves in advance and exclude certain partners. What is important for us, however, is the respective appearance on social platforms, our own portfolio or, if necessary, projects (references) with other artists. We then usually try to make contact and talk to people: What can our material do? What are the possibilities? But it often takes a long time for an idea or a project to emerge that matches our material and technology. Therefore the first goal for us is to introduce the concept of Sandhelden and get it into their heads. However, since we presented our first projects, many potential partners have come to us to learn more about it and to collaborate.

You are working with a range of artists and designers to push the techniques of the technology. Could you tell us a bit about how you worked with Daniel Widrig and Ross Lovegrove? (how it started and the process)

Our collaboration with Ross Lovegrove was the first project we did as a creative manufactory. We had been in contact with him for quite some time, because we simply approached him without any references. But he was immediately enthusiastic about our idea and helped us in many ways. Above all, how we should address artists and what are the decisive factors that speak for us. The actual project with him "Nature is my religion" (NIMR) was presented at the beginning of June 2019 in London and has brought us immediately much attention. 

As we have close relationships with every artist, we are still in contact with Ross Lovegrove today and will continue to do so in the future. Our collaboration with Daniel Widrig was completely different compared to Ross Lovegrove. The contact was established quickly and the first conversations were very positive. For an exhibition in "The Aram Gallery" at the end of June 2019 on the topic "Digital Manual" he wanted to do a project with us to show the possibilities of 3D printing. The big hurdle was the time window of 6 weeks. In the end everything worked out. Both projects were very important milestones for us and reflect our projects in general.  Each one is unique and exciting at the same time.


For Dutch Design Week you worked with Rive Roshan on a collection of pieces for their solo exhibition Stilled Life. How would you describe this collaboration from your perspective?

The first contact with Rive Roshan was at the beginning of the year. As with any other artist, we first explained our technology and the material - sand. Everyone involved quickly realised that we think in similarly and wanted to do something special with this collaboration. Instead of a work of art, we wanted to create a collection that would bridge the gap between art/design and function. Rive Roshan's creativity resulted in eight objects that have never been seen before in interior design. We were able to guide and advise them through the entire printing process. The goal was the Dutch Design Week, which is one of the most important events in the design world for us. In the end, the learning process was already a positive and successful aspect for us in this collaboration.  Through our experience with Rive Roshan, we have learned a lot from working with artists and designers, but we have also been able to make Sandhelden better known as a brand and present it in a unique way. We are now looking forward to the response of the visitors at DDW.

It seems that Sandhelden is contributing to creating a great array of new artistic and collectible pieces that wouldn’t have been made possible otherwise. What do you plan to do with this route in the future?

In everyday life, we often hear that 3D printing is a futuristic technology that is only made for prototyping or small components. But reality, and especially our technology, shows that it's already more than that. As already mentioned, sand is a creative material for us with which we can appeal artists and designers. Together with the technological advantages we have unique possibilities. That's why we want to establish the Sandhelden brand as a creative manufacturer.  We see a great need here and want to help shape the future. In the medium term we also want to move further and further away from 3D branding, as we see it as an established technology and make it a matter of fact.

What’s next for Sandhelden?

It is always difficult for us to say what comes next, as many projects often come spontaneously. We want to continue to show the world the possibilities our technology offers and what we can do with it. We will continue to focus primarily on the artistic markets, but it is also important for us to develop ourselves further as a company. That's why we've started a number of development projects aimed at broadening our materials portfolio in the long term. For example, we are currently working on the use of recycled plastic from the sea. Sustainability is an important issue for us and for future generations. Designers and artists, in particular, are taking up this issue early on and are trying to find creative solutions for that. We, on the other side, want to offer a solution when it comes out in the manufacturing.

Vlad Magdalin

Passionate reader | People person | The one behind All dad jokes
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