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Home: Digital Dinnerware

Christopher Hall

Traditionally, makers of high-end dinnerware have found it difficult to maintain the integrity and consistency of a single design throughout all the pieces of single-theme collections because different materials react differently to various manufacturing processes. For example, metals often shrink 3 to 5 percent during production, and porcelain may shrink up to 18 percent. Consequently, an intricate design can look different on a porcelain plate than on a crystal decanter. In pieces that amalgamate different materials, such as a wine glass with a metal stem, inconsistencies can be even more glaring.

"Patterns and designs may work well on one material, such as porcelain, but not on others," explains Doron Merdinger, founder of his eponymous tableware company in Zug, Switzerland. "The problem until now has been in trying to use the same design for all the pieces of the setting, whether they are made of porcelain, glass, or metal."

The solution to this problem, says Merdinger, lies in the use of 3-D computer imaging in the design process. Employing the technology yields greater consistency during the manufacturing phase.

Merdinger and five designers utilized computer-aided-design software to develop, in three years’ time, the Arabesque Collection, which includes dinnerware, cutlery, stemware, coffee and tea sets, and accessories, such as salt and pepper shakers, all with the same motif. The team began by creating 3-D computer images that enabled the designers to view every piece from all angles. They also used image files to control printers, laser and water-jet cutters, and additional manufacturing tools. The designers then used a 3-D printing program to impose the collection’s complex pattern, with a high degree of accuracy, on a model of each tableware piece.

Production of the collection takes place in five factories around the world, with each piece requiring 60 to 90 days of work to complete. Pieces are fashioned from various materials, including bone china with nearly 50 percent real bone-ash content, 18-karat gold and titanium applied as vacuum plating, and hand-blown, no-lead crystal. Jewelers, rather than cutlery manufacturers, fabricate knives, forks, spoons, and several other metal items. Prices range from $209 for a dinner plate to $2,728 for a pair of candlesticks. A setting for 12—including dinnerware, cutlery, stemware, coffee service, and tabletop accessories—costs about $70,000.

The collection’s arabesque motif features an interlacing pattern of plant forms and abstract shapes that are thought to have originated in Asia Minor and are traditionally associated with Islamic decorative arts. "For more than 1,000 years, [this pattern] has appeared in architecture and other mediums," Merdinger says. "The forms are classical, and the craftsmanship is traditional," he adds. "But we could not have created it without modern technology."

Merdinger, +41.41.711.3672, www.merdinger.ch

Photo by Jim Fets
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