During our recent chat with Matt, the mastermind behind Special Studios and their incredible 3D printed creations, we delved into the brand's history and evolution of their creative process. Join us as we uncover the story behind this awesome innovative company.
01 First off, tell us a little about yourself and the journey behind where you are today?
I'm Matt, a self taught product designer. My work on Special Studio began in 2018 with the brand officially launching in 2021.
It all started with the goal of reducing waste and finding better uses for recycled plastic.
The challenge was to build a company that could both design and manufacture products, using recycled plastics; as efficiently as possible. To solve this large format 3D printing was chosen due to the design freedoms offered and benefits of automated production.
3D Printing is great because it can be used to make a wide range of products and develop new ones quickly with much less waste than traditional manufacturing techniques and it's automated which allows me to spend more time designing products.
Special Studio ended up designing and building a customer printer to produce larger objects, faster.
Now that the new machine is operational, the next step is to set up more machines overseas to scale into new markets and produce locally, saving on shipping time and costs.
02 You've just finished the final touches for your studio in Tauranga, congrats on the opening! Can you tell us a bit more about how the studio came to be?
I had this idea to print products right on the shop floor, and customers find it interesting to see the objects being created. 3D printing is great for this because it's super quiet and watching the machines is kind of mesmerizing.
Having the studio in a central location is perfect and people often stop by on the way to and from work. We hope to develop the retail experience over time and who knows, maybe one day you might see a Special Studio store popup in NYC or London or a Special Studio printer in the window at A&C.
03 Can you tell us what a typical day in the studio looks like for you?
I normally get into the studio around 8-9am. The first thing is to check the prints, see what's finished and what needs to start printing. There's 10 machines in the studio, running 24/7 so print changeover normally takes up the morning and sometimes I’ll run maintenance and clean the machines.
Occasionally the prints fail or have a major defect. In this case I’ll spend time troubleshooting why and make changes to the print files or replace parts on the machine depending on the issue.
Once the printers are all running, then I’ll ship orders, or do stock take before checking emails and social media.
When I'm not working on printing or general business admin, I'm researching and designing new products and creating content
04 We love your commitment to reducing the need for new plastics. Can you tell us your process in using recycled plastic materials into a range of awesome objects?
Using recycled materials was super important to me. It would be much cheaper and easier to use new materials. Recycled materials are harder to source and challenging to use, but I felt it was the right thing to do and I think we’ve proven that customers see the value in doing the right thing.
We don't just use recycled materials, we also have a small recycling facility in house that allows us to recycle the waste we produce.
Around 0.5% of the material used to create the Lulu Stool is wastage, however, we can recycle this material and use it again. That's the really cool thing about plastics, they are relatively easy to process and can be used multiple times.
Failed prints and off cuts then get broken down and converted back into a format that can be reprinted. This process is kind of fun, I smash up the failed prints and put them through a grinder before extruding them again, chopping them into pellets.
05 What about your work continues to inspire you?
I really enjoy designing new products. Digital design tools are awesome because I can create a huge number of different shapes and then visualize the designs so I can see what the product will look like before it's made.
This helps filter the good from the great, then, combining these tools with digital manufacturing, the product is right there in real life. I can touch it, feel the weight, see how the light interacts with the materials and geometry and if it is right, start production. The turnaround time is quick and there's something special about seeing a new design for the first time, it's a hyper creative experience.
I'm proud of every unit produced and every sale is super rewarding. It's awesome knowing that people are enjoying our products.
Shop the full collection by Special Studios here.
For more from Special Studios, follow then at @specialstudio.official