Region: INTERNATIONAL

In Review: GROHE’s Icon 3D

We met within the beautiful, green environs of the Sara Showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road to review GROHE’s latest Icon 3D range of faucets. This was not our usual product review because each piece is a collector’s item, an objet d’art, and a mindblowing piece of technology. Sejal Patel of Kristina Zanic Consultants and Muhsine Morel of HBA were equally astounded by this innovative product.

 


Emerging technology is an exciting domain that is powering several innovative concepts in the field of manufacturing. Among those is 3D printing, which has taken industrial design to a whole new level. A designer’s creativity is limited either by their imagination or the tools at hand (in most cases, we lack the practical methods of building the designs we envision). But thanks to 3D printing technology, we’re starting to see a whole new breed of products made possible by this emerging technology.

One company that is truly embracing 3D printing to level up their design game is GROHE. GROHE is Europe’s largest producer of sanitary fittings with five factories around the world, three of which are located in Germany, where it is headquartered. The brand operates in more than 130 countries, with experience and expertise across the entire range of bathroom and kitchen solutions. Many of these products feature impressive designs that are generally the highlight of that space.

The Review Crew

Above from left: Sejal Patel, Design Director, Kristina Zanic Consultants; Yeliz Olcay, Leader Architecture & Design MENA, GROHE; Muhsine Morel, Project Director, HBA

GROHE’s latest collection redefines our conventional perception of a faucet by pushing the boundaries of design and manufacturing to new heights. The Icon 3D reinterpretation of the Atrio and Allure Brilliant lines is a truly cutting edge work of art that embodies innovation and creativity. It is the result of a deep investment in R&D, as well as a drive to establish design and manufacturing leadership in the industry. In fact, the Icon 3D is nothing short of stunning – a product that reinterprets two existing collections, evolving into something almost magical.

3D Printing – Turning ideas into reality

To truly appreciate the Icon 3D collection, it is important to understand the manufacturing technology used to design it. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process that builds an object by laying down successive layers of a material (metal, plastic, etc) until the object is formed in its entirety. The printer is guided by a digital file, and the process is revolutionary in the sense that it is the opposite of traditional manufacturing, wherein we cut, mould, or hollow out shapes, instead of building on top of it (this is why it is also known as subtractive manufacturing). While 3D printing isn’t at the speed and scale of subtractive manufacturing yet, it allows designers to build complex 3D shapes and geometric designs with substantially less material.

In the case of Icon 3D, the taps are created by laying down wafer thin layers of metal powder, and working its way upwards. About 4000 layers of material are placed over each other with surgical precision, each layer is only 0.06 mm thick. The result is a stunning work of art with an incredible shape and form that makes you truly appreciate the potential of 3D printing and the design prowess of GROHE.

However, improving aesthetic value isn’t the only motivation behind GROHE’s investment in 3D printing technology. The manufacturer aims to explore new technologies that would not only improve design but also create a more sustainable manufacturing process. Given how efficient 3D printing is in reducing wastage, it is obvious why any manufacturer would be interested in exploring this new emerging technology. The nearly zero waste process is slowly being adopted within several industries today.

Sejal: The design is unreal! Almost too good to be true. It’s like something out of this world, and feels like it belongs in a modern art museum because it’s so unique. But I believe that this uniqueness needs to be kept alive, which is why I would only use one in a setting. It deserves all the attention, and needs a project where it can really shine.

It’s certainly got more aesthetic value than functional use. But that being said, looking at the water flow is such an experience. It would fit well in a high-end residence, like a luxury villa or similar setting where it can be admired by visitors (almost shown off). The design is very modern and might be a bit too early for hospitality projects. It caters more towards individuals who are early adopters and interested in investing in avant garde products.

Muhsine: When you see the Icon 3D at first, you would think that no water can flow through without some sort of external support. But it’s amazing, almost magical. The aesthetic is futuristic – sleek, modern, and minimal. It’s definitely a feature piece and will become the focus of attention in any room or setting. Mixing and matching with other products will be hard with this one, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

I would use it in a high-end residential project where the theme is modern and minimal. A theme fit for the new generation of tech-savvy, luxury homeowners. At this point, you need a client who’s willing to invest in this sort of thing. Like how you had early adopters of Tesla’s cars. Also, it doesn’t have to go in a bathroom. It deserves a space where it can be seen and appreciated.

Re-thinking what a tap should look like

“3D printing technology is enabling GROHE to create truly distinctive products for our clients. Not only are they special, but we’re seeing a lot of excitement around these new products. We’re able to deliver something unique for them, and can confidently say our faucets are unlike anything they’ve ever seen or used before,” says Yeliz Olcay, Leader Architecture and Design MENA at GROHE.

GROHE is possibly the first sanitary ware company to use 3D printing to manufacture products. “Our products are seen as functional,” adds Yeliz. “But we want to change that perception by creating pieces that can also be viewed as art”. And we agree. The design of the Icon 3D is certainly impressive, and almost hard to wrap your head around. The GROHE Atrio Icon sports an ultra-thin spout that makes you question its ability to function properly. And yet it works perfectly. However, the Allure Brilliant is, well, truly brilliant. Its hollow interior needs to be seen to be believed, and the water flow could be passed off as an optical illusion. The stainless steel offers a beautiful aesthetic finish and can serve as the highlight of any bathroom. It has a sharp, well defined, faceted shape with a three-hole wall-mounted basin mixer, and delivers a very sophisticated and classy style statement. During manufacturing, after the printing process is completed, each tap is hand-finished to perfection by a grinding and polishing artist. The spout is a 256mm projection that provides an aerated water flow, and the two handles provide precise volume and temperature control, thanks to the state-of-the-art ceramic head parts inside.

Zero waste and super sustainable

Furthermore, the resource-efficient 3D printing technology is extremely sustainable. Since the metal raw material is added and formed layer by layer, rather than subtracted or cut out of a solid figure, the manufacturing process has almost zero waste and significantly lower carbon emissions. The powered waste that is produced during printing and finishing is collected and can be reused over and over again for the same product. It’s truly a milestone in manufacturing and design. Add to that, the water flow in the taps is much lower, thanks to GROHE’s EcoJoy technology that limits water flow to just about five litres per minute.

Uniqueness aside, the Icon 3D collection is exclusive as well. GROHE only manufactures 300 units a year, and in one finish, with potentially more units and finishes in the future. The technology isn’t mainstream yet, and GROHE is still testing demand and design opportunities. Even then, there is already greater demand than supply for this one-of-a-kind product. Yeliz informs us that there is a wait list!

Our thoughts

The Icon 3D collection is unquestionably stunning, and is more art than functional. The price isn’t even up for debate, being a statement piece and not to be considered as a mass order you’d install in every bathroom. That being said, we’d love to see more products like this, because the innovation and sustainability benefits are obvious. And if we haven’t said it numerous times already, the design is incredible!

Sejal: The price is objectively high. But that’s understandable given how new the technology is and the limited availability. It represents so much in terms of futurism and a certain design style. I can see it doing a lot better with customisation options, like colour, finish, or even a logo. Plus, with this technology, you’re limited by your imagination. 

Muhsine: The price can be justified depending on where you’re going to place or show off the item. It’s almost like a collector’s piece. Of course, as a designer, I would love to see finishes, like rose gold, but I’m sure that will come. This is just the beginning and I’m looking forward to seeing more designs like this. I didn’t expect to see something like this from the luxury tap segment, so it’s exciting.

For more information or to see the GROHE Icon 3D live, visit the SARA Showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai.


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