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Brief Published: 2 Feb 2016

Kwambio: On-Demand Manufacture


Kwambio is an online design platform that uses 3D printing to manufacture on demand – reducing waste caused by unsold stock and enabling consumer customisation.

Creative director Chad Phillips – previously of flash-sales site Fab – views Kwambio as a platform that can bring 3D printing into the realm of contemporary design. He chose to collaborate with established designers who don't ordinarily work within the digital realm – demonstrating the wide-reaching potential of this manufacturing technique.

The product range includes jewellery and small homeware items, such as coffee cups and vases. Some are entirely 3D printed, while others are cast using a 3D-printed mould. Products are only manufactured once an order has been placed – each item has a lead time of around three to four weeks. As no inventory is needed, the store is able to dramatically reduce the overheads associated with manufacturing and storing unsold items.

This unconventional approach also enables the company to respond more intuitively to consumer reactions – unpopular designs can be withdrawn without waste, while products in high demand never go out of stock.

Customers can select their preferred material, colour and finish, personalising the design to suit their taste. Currently available in steel, silver and ceramic, there are plans to extend these options in the future.

As highlighted in our Look Ahead 2016, developments in digital fabrication are empowering consumers. Innovative approaches mean unique designs are now possible through mass manufacture, and bespoke is no longer the preserve of the luxury market. For further inspiration, see Personalising Product and our S/S 2016 Design Direction, Extend.