The days of using 3D printers to create mostly plastic, helix-shaped products appear to be numbered. Launching this week, the online retailer Kwambio achieves the paradoxical – manufacturing bespoke 3D-printed housewares, art and accessories on demand. 

To do this, Kwambio works with emerging artists and designers, who share their designs with the company. The Kwambio team then handles the technological process of rendering CAD files from the artists’ designs for 3D printing. Its high-tech 3D printers allow customers to choose a material in which to print each item – from terra cotta and porcelain, to gold, silver and brass – and then Kwambio prints and delivers the final product. Using these methods, the company is able to manufacture items from start to finish in six-to-eight weeks flat.

Kwambio's overarching idea is that designers and clients can forge a new relationship by allowing customers to customise the final design, printing only the items ordered rather than keeping a set inventory. This alleviates the technological and production burdens on the designer, so they are offered the possibility of working in a new medium without having to sacrifice significant time and materials.

The brand's creative director Chad Phillips – former director of retail at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and creative director of – reports that the designers on his roster are thrilled by these new opportunities. 'When I talked with [artist] Misha Kahn, he said, "You have a new toy I can play with? Of course I want to work with you",' recalls Phillips. 'It lets them play in ways they wouldn’t normally be able to.' Kwambio’s debut offering is impressive, and includes creations by Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Jim Drain, Katie Stout, byAMT and Andrew Sack. Pieces by the likes of Kahn, Farrah Sit, Material Lust and Dusen Dusen are set to follow.

'We want to change the paradigm of 3D printing,' Phillips adds. 'A lot of people aren’t intrigued by 3D printing because it’s the same math equations spit out of a plastic machine. We are pushing the envelope on what people think of when they think of the technology – and what can be made on-demand in the world.'