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Architectural 3D printing revolutionized

Written By Sansation on Sunday, 4 November 2012 | 08:17

The future potential to build and realize the concepts of human creativity hide only within the potential of the brain. For many years the architectural world for instance, struggled to keep up with the ability of pen-to-paper and the recent advents in NURB, algorithmic and parametric architecture. This all led to the building and technology industry having to forcefully catch up with the developments in 3D architectural visualization. As a matter of fact, as CAD introduced itself in the 80's, radical transformation in their generative foundations and productive capacities took place and the architectural world found itself most out-of-step and least alert, immersed in ideological and tautological discussions, adrift in a plane of referents severed from material production.

The lack of connection between how and what is being designed, and the manifestation of form has dramatically delayed the progress within architecture. One reason for the disconnect is the continued separation between building and structure as well as a lack of research with materials science and the search for a way to break away from the traditional building methods.

The architectural world’s current use of the parametric has been superficial and only skin-deep. Despite the  desire to forget postmodern semiotic signification, everything visual eventually devolves into symbolic imagery. For this reason it is refreshing and provides a new sense of hope in the future of architecture that has lead and pushed Enrico Dini, an Italian inventor, and Markus Kayser, a German furnitures- and product designer to find a method that combines building, structure and material. Creating and setting up new methods for how architects, engineers and designers can plan and realize the future that they have long promised.

Enrico dreamt of buildings, construction and impossible shapes. He became a civil engineer and later ended up making machines, while dreaming of impossible architectural shapes. For him, thinking about having to build with concrete and brick and the required use of scaffolding and manpower seemed outdated and inefficient. Rather than accept the constraints of the current building methods, in 2004 he invented and patented a full scale 3D printing method that used epoxy to bind sand. Enrico could now 3D print buildings.

In 2007, he did away with the use of the messy and sticky epoxy and got a new patent for a system using an inorganic binding material combined with sand. The new process had lower maintenance costs and was easier to use and more cost effective. And now he works on further improving the accuracy and will 3D-print a full sized roundabout sculpture in Italy. Dini calls his real scale printing machine D_Shape. As of now the D_Shape technology can easily create 6m x 6m x 1m objects or parts. The goal being to literally 3D-print entire buildings is not far out. The printed products resemble ‘sandstone, and can compare in strength to reinforced concrete and the ingredients are the binding material and any type of sand. The materials cost more than regular concrete but much less manpower is needed for construction. No scaffolding needs to be constructed so overall building cost is lower than the traditional methods.

The geniously invented system works with a rigging that reaches out over the build-able part. It deposits the sand and then thebinding ink. No water is needed. Because the two components meet outside its nozzle, the machine doesn't clog up and can keep up its accuracy of 25 DPI. Enrico is currently working with a lot of construction and engineering companies as well as architects. Currently he partnered with Norman Foster Architects to incorporate the use of moon-dust and the building element with the ambition of one day being able to transport the 3D printing machine to the moon to build structures made of the same materials found on the surface there.

Markus Kayser studied 3D furniture and product design in London and continued with the study of product design until he earned his Master. Then, Markus Kayser Studio was setup. From early works of furniture and lights to today Markus developed an understanding of materials, processes and technologies which he perceives as being key in combination with the natural given. He wants to produce objects that people can relate to, that speak about something apart from just their actual use.

Experimenting is the main objective in developing his designs. Kayser’s recent work shows us the exploration of hybrid solutions linking technology and natural energy to show the great opportunities, to question current methodologies in manufacturing and to test new scenario's of production. In his process it is important that behind the research and theory there must be a realistic concept, which emphasises on the real potential of a given subject. He tries to tell a tale and to balance the seriousness with a degree of artistic humor.

Two years ago he brought his first solar machine, the sun-cutter, to the desert of Egypt. It's a solar-powered, semi-automatic laser cutter, that uses the power of our sun to power it and directly harnessed its rays through a glass ball lens to ‘laser’ cut 2D components using a camera-guided system. The sun-cutter produced components in thin plywood with an aesthetic quality that was a curious hybrid of machine- and nature craft due to the crudeness of its mechanism and cutting beam optics, alongside variations in solar intensity due to  fluctuations of the weather.

Selective Laser Sintering
In the desert 2 elements dominate, sun and sand. The sun offers a huge energy source while the sand gives an almost unlimited supply of building material. The experience of working in the harsh desert conditions led him directly to the idea of a new machine that brings together these elements. Sand when heated to melting point and cooled sets as glass. This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or Selective Laser Sintering. These 3D printers use laser technology to create very precise solid objects from a variety of powdered plastics, resins and metals. By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, he had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the over-abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.

His first manually-operated solar-sintering machine was testedjust a year ago in the desert of North-Africa with very positive results that led to the development of the current larger and fully-automated computer driven version, the Solar-Sinter. He took his experimental machine to the Sahara desert for a 2-week test-drive. The machine and the results of these first experiments showed the initial significant steps towards what cab safely be considered a revolutionary production tool of great potential.

In a world increasingly concerned about energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material exist in great abundance. Sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process. Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilization of the production potential of our most efficient energy resource.

You have jusr read the stories of two people who dare to think out of the box, envision and create something innovative and useful. With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, who many considered the Frank Lloyd Wright of the technology industry, architects should aim to pursue the same level of great and ambitious work, and the desire to unify architecture similar to how these great visionaries unified their ideas. Steve Jobs created the need for a product, then designed the product and the technology to be able to realize those products. Likewise, architecture and architects should aim to unify the building, the experience, the structure, the material and the technology to make it all possible.
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