Known for their mechanical resilience, ribbed steel rods or rebars are commonly used for reinforcing concrete. Embedded deep within concrete foundations, slabs, walls and rooftops, they’re not something we usually see or celebrate as a design feature. But one furniture startup in Italy is on a mission to bring steel rods into the limelight. KINDOF has made the conscious decision to use recycled steel rods to create a range of chairs, tables, bookcases and accessories that embrace the material’s raw, industrial appeal, and it’s taking advantage of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on cloud to showcase its innovative products and develop an effective and efficient go-to-market strategy.
KINDOF’s roots lie in building materials. Its fellow family business Ghielmimport in Switzerland, a supplier of cement, rebar and building material, is the source of inspiration for using steel rods. It’s also the reason why KINDOF remains faithful to the traditional cold processing technique to bend and shape its furniture. KINDOF has perfected the method to make the most of each rod, bending it in at least three places to form the 3D furniture frame, with no need for joints.
“Our cold bending process has an Italian, Swiss and European patent,” said Camilla Mazzola, brand and marketing manager at KINDOF. “Each single rod dictates the design and final shape of each piece of furniture. It’s why our products are so unique.”
By its very nature, KINDOF furniture has been designed to be sustainable. All the steel rods are forged from metal scrap, and each product is finished using non-toxic substances that do not harm the environment and ensure the material can be recycled again.
“Sustainability is really important to us; it’s not something we’ve forced,” Mazzola said. “We never extract raw materials to make our steel rods and we consider the environmental aspect at every stage, all the way down to the furniture finishes. We are ensuring we’re in the circular economy in that our furniture is designed to last and could eventually be melted down again to create new products. Our approach is against forced consumerism. We’re focused on durability and making products that are timeless by design.”
KINDOF’s customers can choose from a wide range of colors and finishes – 24 in total – to personalize their furniture. But with this choice came a challenge. KINDOF wanted to be able to show how all its furniture items would look in each different configuration, but making and photographing every individual product would have been both time intensive and costly.
“The finishes are a very important component in our offering,” Mazzola explained. “All of them are powders, so are suitable for interior and exterior use, and they allow our customers to choose something that suits their specific tastes. It was key for us to be able to show this on our e-commerce website and in our product brochure, but we knew it wouldn’t be feasible to make each piece of furniture in every different color and finish combination.”
It was at a design technology trade expo in Milan that Mazzola and the KINDOF team discovered the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
“We met with Dassault Systèmes, explained our challenge and they said they could help with their design and render tools,” Mazzola said. “We needed specific functionality, such as the ability to use the software on the go. As a startup, we also didn’t want to invest in additional servers and hardware, so it was important to be able to have a cloud-based access. But critically, they showed us that the design software could produce perfect, photo-realistic representations of our products.”
KINDOF uses CATIA xDesign, and 3DEXCITE xStudio web-based 3DEXPERIENCE apps on cloud on a pay per use basis.
“It has been so useful being able to take advantage of these apps in the cloud,” Mazzola said. “We pay for what we use and have the flexibility to scale up and down according to our needs, which helps us to keep costs down. I’m seeing really good results. The apps are really user friendly and quick to load and respond. I can customize the dashboard to suit my needs and easily switch between the different roles and apps. And it can all be accessed on my laptop.”
As a startup, it has been so useful being able to take advantage of these apps in the cloud. We pay for what we use and have the flexibility to scale up and down according to our needs, which helps us to keep costs down.
KINDOF turned to Dassault Systèmes business partner IDeCOM to get up and running on the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud apps.
“At the beginning, we needed a partner experienced in the platform,” Mazzola said. “IDeCOM supports us with the creation of the 3D models from our 2D furniture drawings and helped me learn how to use the tools. I give them measurements and sketches and they turn them into 3D models which I use to create the renderings. They are really precise.”
Today, IDeCOM continues to provide ongoing assistance.
“We have a private community and chat on the IFWE Loop, which we use to easily share files,” Mazzola said. “IDeCOM answers all my queries and is really patient with me, allowing me to make modifications to get the right result. One day, for example, I gave them the measurements and details for one model, then something changed, and they modified it immediately. They are very responsive and help me get the best results.”
Using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform web apps xDesign and xStudio, KINDOF succeeded in creating 2,000 product renders within one month.
“It was a really efficient method and allowed us to launch our website and show all our products off in the best possible way,” Mazzola said. “All 2,000 renders are used on the website, social media and in all marketing materials. The results are so perfect that they look real. I’ve been so impressed with the final outcome.
“I use xDesign it for everything related to modelling,” she added. “When I put the 3D model in, I can change the colors and shades and get them to look just like the real finishes on our furniture. To create the renderings positioning the lighting, shading and backgrounds I use xStudio. Most of the product shots on the website have a clean and simple white background, but I can also use the tool to create lifestyle images using indoor and outdoor backgrounds. When I render for a specific project, I can pull multiple products together and create really high-quality photorealistic images.”
Critically, Mazzola is able to easily switch between the different apps. “They update and communicate really fast,” she explained. “If I want to adjust the lighting or switch colors in the rendering, I can keep the positioning from the 3D model and make the change. It’s a really intuitive way of working. We’re talking about saving months and months of work.”
KINDOF also uses the project management capabilities in ENOVIA on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to keep marketing activities on track.
“I use it for organizing projects and dividing up tasks,” Mazzola said. “Project Planner helps me to manage workflows, approvals and project timelines and is an effective way of checking progress and optimizing my time. The data management is invaluable. I can save renderings with tags and categories, and it allows me to create a library and find specific products easily. We already have 69 products with 24 finishes and the platform will support us as we grow.”
With the renderings, KINDOF uses 3DEXCITE to create powerful marketing assets that really elevate the way products are presented to customers. “The most important thing was to have a high-quality result,” Mazzola said. “The product shots needed to be comparable to a photo shoot, and they are. But we’ve also been able to take them to the next level by offering a 360-degree view, which is much more immersive.”
On the KINDOF website, it’s possible to see each of the furniture products from a variety of different views in all possible configurations. KINDOF also uses 3DEXCITE to convince prospective customers to buy with a virtual styling service. “We work with them to virtually style the furniture and show exactly how it will fit in their space,” Mazzola said. “It really sells the product to them, and I’ve had such positive feedback. I can show customers exactly how the products will look in a bar or their garden, and I can quickly switch colors and finishes. Our furniture is minimal and simple, so you have to see it in a realistic way, within context. I can also show how different products and colorways work together, using different combinations to create striking dining furniture, for example, or even show how some of our multifunctional products can be used in a variety of ways.”
The most important thing was to have a high-quality result. The product shots needed to be comparable to a photo shoot, and they are. But we’ve also been able to take them to the next level by offering a 360-degree view, which is much more immersive.
KINDOF has seen great results with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. “I would absolutely recommend these design tools for a startup like us,” Mazzola said. “They have saved us several months of additional work, not to mention the costs of making each piece of furniture and photographing it. It would have been impossible.”
Now, with a strong foundation to build on, KINDOF looks forward to sharing its products with the world and building on its design capabilities. “I really hope that KINDOF will evolve from a startup into a fully-fledged furniture brand,” Mazzola said. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform will support us on our journey and we’re even considering using it to manage our product design processes too. At the moment, we draw the designs and make the prototypes from sketches. I think in the future we could create them using 3D models in CATIA, which would allow us to truly visualize a product before it’s made. We’re really excited about what the future has in store.”
Based in Italy, KINDOF creates contemporary furniture made from a single steel rod. Its designs are suitable for interior and exterior use, delivering innovation, versatility and comfort. The company’s team of master craftsmen channel their design expertise and creativity to transform a raw and wiry, yet strong and flexible industrial material into minimalist furniture using traditional production techniques.
For more information: www.kindoffurniture.com
IDeCOM provides a portfolio of services combining its scientific and engineering capabilities. Its consultancy business vision is to be the partner of choice for high-value services to the civil infrastructures, energy and real estate sectors by delivering innovative solutions with a practical approach.