Gantri Shines a Light on 3D Printing for Home Décor

Gantri (a new design company based in San Francisco) uses 3D printing to create light fixtures that are designed by independent artists from around the world.

Additive manufacturing often draws attention in big, technical industries like automotive engineering. But what can it bring to small businesses and creative industries like home décor? Ian Yang saw such an opportunity when he founded Gantri, a new design company that utilizes 3D printing to make unique light fixtures.[1] The company sources product designs from independent artists around the world, translates them into physical items via 3D printing, and sells them to customers online at a relatively low cost.[2]

Gantri founder Ian Yang with some of the company’s 3D printers. Source: https://design-milk.com/renegade-x-design-milk-spotlight-gantri/dm_spotlight-gantri-ian/

3D printing is essential to Gantri’s mission of bringing unique designs to customers via their online marketplace. First, it provides significant cost savings compared to traditional production processes, which would require high upfront costs and large minimum order quantities.[3] As Yang explains, “We need to eliminate those costs if we want to make manufacturing accessible to individuals. 3D printing has minimal setup cost and is capable of producing products on-demand, so it’s the process that’s most suited to our goals.”[4] Using 3D printing therefore provides independent designers with a low-cost method to bring their ideas to life (especially when Gantri is footing the bill for the machines).[5]

Additive manufacturing also fundamentally allows Gantri to source designs from around the world, despite centralizing production in San Francisco. Since 3D printing only requires a digital file from the designer, Gantri can engage designers from anywhere. Once the item is produced at Gantri’s facility, it can be shipped to customers worldwide. Here again, 3D printing is the key to Gantri being able to connect a multitude of independent designers with customers.

By centralizing production (and other administrative operations) this way and utilizing 3D printing, Gantri can also eliminate almost 2 years from the production leadtime for lighting. Cutting the traditional 18-24 month leadtime down to 12-14 weeks results in significant labor cost savings that can benefit both designers and customers.[6] In this sense, 3D printing makes production attainable for independent designers and helps make high quality design financially accessible to customers. These savings underscore how 3D printing is essential to Gantri’s business model and ability to bring independent designs to market.

Source: https://design-milk.com/renegade-x-design-milk-spotlight-gantri/dm_spotlight-gantri-light-tlseries/

Despite all of these wins, Gantri’s business remains limited for now, in terms of both product offerings and scale. In the short-term, Gantri’s leaders are focused on expanding their business to other product categories besides lighting. Over the next two years, they intend to introduce items like planters, dishes, containers, and bathroom accessories.[7] This will help them expand their business while still leveraging the benefits that 3D printing provides for the production process.

In the medium-term, Gantri is primarily focused on expanding their platform to more designers. At this point, the company invites only a select few designers to sell on their website. However, their goal is to expand to a broader network. Yang explains, “We attract designers who really want to build their design brands, [but] one day we want to support everybody.”[8] Gantri’s use of 3D printing will allow the business to collaborate with more designers easily, but the company’s management will need to decide whether expanding their reach profitably outweighs the corresponding costs of additional equipment and labor at their production facility.

Beyond the company’s current plans, there are other future business challenges for Gantri’s leaders to consider. For example, in the short-term, 3D printing is limited to a small set of materials like plastic.[9] This may limit their ability to expand into more home décor categories. Dishes and bathroom containers may align with current available materials, but anything involving fabric will not.[10] If Gantri wants to be a player in all areas of design and décor, they should invest in Research & Development for new 3D printing materials.[11]

As Gantri continues to grow their business, their leaders will also need to consider how their 3D printing business model impacts their ability to scale production. For now, 3D printing provides smaller businesses with an opportunity to build specialized items at a lower cost than traditional manufacturing.[12] Leaders will need to consider if it is financially viable to invest in more high cost 3D printers as the company grows. They could also consider outsourcing their 3D printing to a third-party. Over the next 10 years, Gantri may find that their core competency is connecting designers and consumers on their platform, rather than the actual 3D printing production process.

In summation, Gantri exhibits how additive manufacturing can be used by a small business to provide value in a creative, design-driven business like home décor. As the company looks to the future, we are left with a few big questions. First, is 3D printing a short-term solution for driving innovation in this industry, or will it be a sustainable production method? Finally, how does Gantri’s innovative use of 3D printing open themselves up to competition? Is their business model easily replicable? (798 words)

 

[1] Amanda Sims, “We Can’t Believe These 3D-Printed Lamps Are All Under $200,” Architectural Digest, October 8, 2018, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/gantri-3d-printing-lamps-under-200, accessed November 2018.

[2] “Gantri Table Lights is a Fascinating Retail Model Built for the Age of 3D Printing,” August 29, 2018, Core 77, https://www.core77.com/posts/79464/Gantri-Table-Lights-is-a-Fascinating-Retail-Model-Built-for-the-Age-of-3D-Printing, accessed November 2018.

[3] Sarah Saunders, “Creative Design Platform Gantri Offers Free Resources and 3D Printing, So Designers Can Quickly Bring Products to Market,” July 3, 2017, https://3dprint.com/179865/design-platform-gantri-3d-printing/, accessed November 2018.

[4] Ibid

[5] “3D Printing 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets, Players : Current Usage, Future Applications and Market Forecasts.” PR Newswire, Aug 03, 2016. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1808427605?accountid=11311.

[6] Clare Scott, “Gantri’s Artistic Lamps Illuminate the Possibilities of 3D Printing,” October 9, 2018, https://3dprint.com/226868/gantri-3d-printed-lamps/, accessed November 2018.

[7] Jaime Derringer, “Renegade x Design Milk Spotlight: Gantri,” November 16, 2017, https://design-milk.com/renegade-x-design-milk-spotlight-gantri/, accessed November 2018.

[8] Amanda Sims, “We Can’t Believe These 3D-Printed Lamps Are All Under $200,” Architectural Digest, October 8, 2018, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/gantri-3d-printing-lamps-under-200, accessed November 2018.

[9] Zander, Kai-Oliver,M.Eng, M.S., and Katharina Renken M.Eng. DECISION FACTORS IN ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING – AN ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK, American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), Huntsville, 2016. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/2010278545?accountid=11311.

[10] Douglas, Caolinn. “Designers are Exploring the Vast Potential of 3D Printing.” FT.Com, 2018. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/2122737241?accountid=11311.

[11] “What’s Next for 3D PRINTING? The Disruptive Technology Continues to Grow Thanks to Lower Costs and Greater Accessibility.” Machine Design, vol. 90, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 36–42. EBSCOhost, ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=127436033&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[12] Zander, Kai-Oliver,M.Eng, M.S., and Katharina Renken M.Eng. DECISION FACTORS IN ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING – AN ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK, American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), Huntsville, 2016. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/2010278545?accountid=11311.

Previous:

Tesla: Driving Into the AI Future?

Next:

Grammar(ly): Who sets the rules?

11 thoughts on “Gantri Shines a Light on 3D Printing for Home Décor

  1. I really like the idea of producing “trendy” items with 3D printing because it significantly cuts down on the waste of overproduction and obsolescence. This creates a marketplace for independent designs to match their designs up with buyers without the capital intensive burden of buying tools and manufacturing their designs. Unpopular designs can easily be phased out and popular ones brought back with a simple change in programming.

    I think Gantri runs the risk of being replicated, especially if they choose to compete on cost. There is still capital investment involved in renting 3D printer equipment, but they will likely compete on all variable costs (designer royalties, advertising, labor, etc.). I think an investment in many independent designers, however, will help them to differentiate.

  2. This beautifully written essay highlights how in the future consumers may not have to pay through the roof for niche items! While mass production has allowed a lot of people access to essentials (and then some), the same techniques do not work for any goods that have a limited market. I agree that 3D printing has allowed companies like Gantri to function but I am curious what their competitive advantage will be especially since a competitor can also manufacture easily, especially if they do not employ the designers or own their designs. In the long term, if they evolve to become a platform that connects designers and manufacturers, I think they should continue to manufacture which would be their core competency but also operate a marketplace model for manufacturers.

  3. What an interesting use of additive manufacturing/3D printing! Prior to reading this, I had never thought about how the technology could be used to help small scale artisans. The benefits mentioned in this article are massive for the individual owner of this type of organization – decreasing production time and increasing source inputs drastically are both non-trivial metrics, especially for someone whose primary source of income likely comes from this venture. I do worry about two key areas that were briefly touched upon in this article: quality and differentiation.

    In terms of quality, it does seem that additive manufacturing is relatively limited in the types of materials it can incorporate – how will Gantri be able to keep up with the demand of non-plastic, more custom products if the only material it can use in this process is plastic? I am not sure how quickly this technology will advance, or if Gantri will choose to supplement more traditional products with small components from 3D printing, but it is a big risk in this environment, when consumers are likely focused on purchasing well-crafted, one-of-a-kind items.

    In terms of differentiation, the key question I have is how will Gantri stop others (both companies and individuals) from completely replicating its designs? Will these types of items become commodities if others are able to afford the 3D printing technology and its related parts? I worry about where Gantri will get its competitive edge if this technology becomes more readily available to the general public.

  4. I love the idea that Gantri is connecting consumers with designers that don’t have a platform or physical product but do have many great ideas! When I was reading this, I wondered if this could become some version of a site like Etsy where designers could post their designs online for a wide range of products, but then Gantri would produce and ship the physical product. Do you think 3D printing is moving in the direction to support a wide range of products (i.e. products not made of plastic)?

    While I do find their business model replicable, I wonder if the significant up front costs of buying 3D printers would prevent smaller entrants to enter into the market. I am concerned that a large corporation, such as Etsy, could take this on…or maybe they would buy Gantri! One additoinal idea for Gantri is customization. I am very intrigued by the idea I could easily connect with a designer who could produce a light specially for me. It could be extremely powerful to have a platform for these kind of connections to take place for designers and consumers alike!

  5. Very interesting topic. I agree with a lot of the points made above and remain concerned that Gantri does not have a true competitive advantage. Gantri is connecting small scale artists to the technology they lack and consumers to the customized art they crave.Yet, Gantri’s unique offering depends on the continued willingness of small scale artists and businesses to partner with Gantri. As the company scales, I think the idea of ownership and branding will become a challenge. Is the lamp a piece from John Smith’s collection sponsored by Gantri, a Gantri lamp designed by John Smith or simply a Gantri lamp?

  6. Excellent article – thank you TOMGirl29! Generally, I agree with the points made above: interesting business proposition, but risk to be replicated and difficult to differentiate from others.

    I would like to highlight how disruptive I find this value proposition. Many consumers view their homes and the furniture in them as an extension of themselves [1]. Therefore, allowing them to have a say on the design of its furniture is very attractive. Additionally, the product is high quality, cheap, produced quickly and shipped directly to home. This product has definitely an edge over traditional furniture.

    Who will win in this market? I don’t think Gantri will. I foresee the winner in this market to be a large global player, encompassing all designer-to-consumer products:
    – With scale in additive manufacturing, in order to produce efficiently, both in terms of cost and time
    – Including a broad set of furniture, and even other items (decoration, clothing, etc.)
    – With very strong online marketing capabilities
    – With very attractive value proposition for designers

    [1] Ponder, Nicole. “Consumer Attitudes and Buying Behavior for Home Furniture”. July 10, 2013.http://www.ffi.msstate.edu/pdf/consumer_attitudes.pdf, accessed November 14, 2018.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this article. I believe 3D printing for this industry is a sustainable production method for the following reasons:
    1) Overall, this method of production is less capital intensive
    2) Allows the company to be more nimble as consumer trends change. In a industry like this consumers have varied tastes and traditional manufacturing companies struggle to produce several SKUs with low volume. 3D printing addresses this solution quite well
    3) Also, this type of manufacturing opens a new market for both full time and part time designers. They can now see their designs become products without having to set up their own manufacturing lines or commit to large order sizes from traditional manufacturers.

    Despite the above benefits I do think 3D printing is replicable. The key for Gantri will be to create a large and embedded ecosystem of designers. Over time this community will create a brand for the company that will be sustainable. I do not think Gantri should compete on price. Also to further reduce risk, Gantri should create a larger product basket and encourage designers to think of design from a portfolio perspective.

  8. Excellent read. Regarding your point on competitive differentiation, I believe that the use of 3D printing technology will definitely make the space more competitive…which for us consumers, is a good thing. Although I am not an expert on furniture design, I imagine that there must be some costs (e.g., machinery, material cost, etc) that may make it difficult for smaller entrants to compete effectively in the market. If 3D printing is able to drive down the costs so that the main competitive factors are more around creative design that comes from human minds, then I think that the end result will be more compelling products for all of us to enjoy.

  9. Very interesting article. One tension that I see in the world of 3D printing is that you are caught between mass-production, low margin products, and traditional, high margin artisinal products. With 3D printing you have relatively high manufacturing costs for very little in the way of quality improvement over a mass-produced item. As mentioned the competitive advantage is the speed in which they can react to changing consumer tastes. In other words they are in the fast fashion business. But I think this is a risky space to play in because unlike a large fast fashion firm they are relying on individual and independent designers who might not be able to take on the volatility of having their designs only sometimes be making money. As an independent designer I would prefer to get a guaranteed long-term contract with a traditional company or to go the high-margin route with more high-quality artisinal products (e.g. Etsy).

  10. That is so awesome. They should totally move someplace cheap though, like Kansas. It’d make the economics more attractive. Either way, I’m totally ordering one of those lamps. I’m not sure about getting fabrics into 3D printing, but there are machines 3D printing houses, so maybe ceramics aren’t too far off; just 3D print the colored clay, then glaze it, fire it and sell it. Great article!

  11. I’m interested in the last question you raised. How defensible is Gantri’s business model? While 3D printing is an amazing deal for the small business / independent designer, who ends up consolidating power in the supply chain under this business model? Is it Gantri? If so, how does the company maintain that grip? I agree with your view that Gantri’s value-add is that of a marketplace, rather than its 3D printing process. That said, the company may want to consider ways to increase the value of its network to consumers and designers while increasing switching costs for both.

Leave a comment