Reimagining Molded Wood

In 2017 Catalano Design celebrated its 30th anniversary, and with this milestone came many opportunities to reflect on our accomplishments as a firm and what we love about our work as designers. So, when Herman Miller approached us about creating a story for WHY Magazine, we were thrilled. The resulting article “Crafting Her Ply”, written by president Carol Catalano, focuses specifically on Catalano Design’s work with molded plywood, but it also speaks to the value of research based design - something that has been at the core of our mission for more than two decades.

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In the article, Catalano discusses not only our history designing products made from molded plywood, but also our ongoing experimentation with combining molded plywood and 3D printing. For readers of our blog, we thought it would be interesting to provide additional details and images describing our process creating plywood parts.

We have brainstormed methods of rapidly producing unique plywood parts using 3D printed molds, different types of product applications that might utilize both processes in harmony, and direct integration of plywood into the printing process to create hybrid parts. The images that follow give a more in-depth view of the techniques and processes we've used in the latter.


Starting with our 3D printer, we make a plastic part, pausing the print at a predetermined point during the build. We then add a wood layer, lock it down, and resume building the plastic part directly on and around it.

When the plastic part is complete, it traps the wood piece, integrating it in a seamless fashion. Combinations such as these are extremely difficult, and often impossible in traditional injection molding.

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The combined part benefits from the wood's grain, flexibility, and strength. The pieces can be laminated to each other or molded with additional wood layers to create a variation in form and increased durability.

Experiments like this offer expanded possibilities for creating expressive designs with interesting properties. Stay tuned for more on that subject soon.

Carol Catalano