Cali Virek Design ©

Designing with 3D printers

Hamburger-based Cali Virek opting for innovative technology and sustainable production

Hardly any sector is immune to 3D printing – from prototype construction in the automobile industry, building models in architecture and artificial organs in medicine. Boundless possibilities of using the technology are emerging. 3D printing is already being used in aviation, scientific institutes and in all kinds of creative industries across Hamburg. Martina Schulze and Manuela Helms, the founders of the Cali Virek fashion label, are also turning to 3D printing.

Fascinating new shapes

Cali Virek came to life in Schulze’s kitchen where she also built her own 3D printer. Qualified as an industrial designer from the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, Schulze was keen to understand the technology behind the printer. She noted: “It is fascinating to observe how shapes that cannot be mass produced emerge from the melting and cooling process.” However, she needed a prefabricated model to set up the fashion label in 2016.

Cradle-to-cradle principle

A few months later, Schulze and her business partner Manuela Helms opened an office in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel in March. Helms is presently pursuing her degree in Business Management and Administration at the University of Bremen. Yet this has not prevented her from specialising in the production of individualised wall decorations simultaneously. Her business partner, Schulze, is responsible for the production of chairs, lamps and tables. “Our products are made of compostable material. We use maize starch and wood-plastic that do not produce harmful residuals,” said Schulze.

Cali Virek is based on the cradle-to-cradle principle – a biomimetic approach to the design of products. “The idea is to go without the use of health and environment-impacting substances so that all the materials are part of a closed circuit. We produce exactly the amount requested and no more.” The designers wish to live up to this principle with their work.

Devil in the detail

Cali Virek’s designs reflect awareness of ecology and sustainability. Schulze pointed out: “We have developed a tulip-shaped lamp and a stool which takes it inspiration from the centuries-old flower of life symbol.” The 3D models and designs are created with computer aided design (CAD) programmes. Then, slicer software divides the model into layers and e.g. stipulates the temperatures required to print the model. The printing process can take five hours for a lamp and 24 hours for a stool. “The more details, the more time-consuming the print,” Schulze explained.

Room numbers for Scandic Hotel Hamburg

Until now, the designers have sold their products on DIY websites. Sales on their own online website are due to start in the coming weeks. Cali Virek has already produced room number plates and signs for the Scandic Hotel Hamburg. The company’s long-term goal is to establish a product range of individualised, decorating items. Customers can then use diverse modules to put their individual product together and order the item at the press of a button. However, that is likely to take another one or two years, said the designers.

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