Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3D Printing

Joshua Fowler here,

                So there is a great deal of interest growing at a seemingly exponential rate around the subject of 3D printing here at SIU. I recently visited our Morris Library where there was a demonstration of 3D printing via a non-profit organization called New Blankets. As a supervisor of SIU Architecture department's Digital Fabrication Lab, I work with 2 Makerbot Replicators and what really intrigues me is the dialogue between 3D printing and architecture. There appears to be a great potential in this area regarding complex physical design, easing the transition from design to a final physical entity, and speed of construction as compared to traditional means. Such potential can be witnessed through various conceptual projects  such as…
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Architect Enrico Dini believes that the future of not only architecture, but also the very way we construct buildings will be based around 3-D printing. He has currently developed and constructed his own large scale 3D printer which is currently the largest in the world. With this machine, Mr. Dini is researching and developing near-full scale geometries and redefining how structures could be constructed. This technique utilizes a type of 3d printing known to the 3D printing community as granular 3D printing as opposed to the more common and desktop friendly 3D printers which utilize a heated extrusion 3D  printing.
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Behrokh Khoshnevis is director of the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California, and is in the process of developing full sized 3D printing machines that would theoretically be able to 3D print a house in 20 hours. This process he is developing is called contour crafting and would be able to print full size houses and buildings. according to Ryan Neal from International Business Times, "NASA is currently sponsoring the Contour Crafting project to construct 3D printers that can produce lunar structures. Khoshnevis said his goal with the project is to quickly, safely and more efficiently produce entire neighborhoods in impoverished areas. Since the design of each house could easily be customized on the computers, Contour Crafting can even avoid a nightmare of homogenous track homes."
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The concept of 3D printing on the moon was recently endorsed by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is now collaborating with architects Foster + Partners to gauge the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil. This has the capability of allowing us to building on the moon using the moon itself as a construction material. This technology is currently being tested and researched but is still in its infancy in regards to what it would truly take to make an operation of this size possible.

These are simply a few examples of how 3D printing can change the future of the built environment. The line does not stop here either, 3D printers are also being developed that can print metal, prosthetics,  and even food! 3D printing has already changed preconceptions of how to accomplish so many things, which begs the question what preconceptions will it challenge next. 


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