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3D Printing Our World

The 3D printing industry has disrupted countless industries in the last few years.  The healthcare industry, the auto industry, the footwear industry – even the culinary industry!  But another major industry additive manufacturing is turning on its head right now is the industry which focuses on how we create our environment.  No, it’s not just the architectural industry, but this month’s story does start there…

Futurism reports on a stunning breakthrough for the world of 3D printing.  A residential home in Russia was 3D printed in 24 hours for just a little over $10,000.

This beautiful abode was developed and 3D printed by Russian company Apis Cor., “dedicated to building the world with printing.”  The house was printed in the town Stupino, a region just outside Moscow.

“Construction took [a mere] 24 freezing hours [in December of 2016], through temperatures of   -35C degrees (-31F degrees).  The home, equipped with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and a hallway, was made on-site, a world’s first for 3D printed buildings constructed in that amount of time.”  This 38-square-meter (409-square-foot) marvel cost $10,134 to create, “including the expenses of work, materials for the construction, and furnishing.  That’s $275 per square meter, but the company is confident that a square house with a simpler design and averagely priced materials would cost only $223 per square meter.”

As plainly illustrated in Apis Cor.’s video, “the construction of the home was made possible by a mobile 3D printer.  Once the mobile printer had completed the walls, it was removed with a crane manipulator to allow manual workers to come in and finish the job.”

To conclude, Apis Cor. argues “its method of 3D printing homes cuts 70% of costs compared to traditional methods.  The company is prepared to help the construction industry pivot to 3D printing for future homes around the world.”

When it comes to indoors, well, 3D printing has you covered there too.

Seeker got the scoop on an intriguing new 3D printing system currently under development in Sweden.  Swedish masters of physics student (and inventor) Torbjorn Ludvigsen, who studies at Umea University, “has spent the last three years developing a new kind of large-format 3D printer that can build furniture-sized objects in any room – surprisingly easily and relatively cheaply.”

Ludvigsen calls his new invention the ‘Hangprinter.’  The Hangprinter “employs a system of wires and computer-controlled pulleys anchored to the walls, floor, and ceiling.  Once installed, the Hangprinter essentially uses the room itself as a casing…all the hardware and firmware components can be purchased for about $250.”

How can it be so cheap?  Well, the Hangprinter is open source – part of the RepRap online community.  Therefore, “anyone can download the instructions and add improvements – or incorporate upgrades designed by other makers.  Finally, the Hangprinter is designed to self-replicate.  Most of the component parts needed to make a Hangprinter can be printed out by the Hangprinter itself.”

Ludvigsen envisions a world where 3D printing is in the hands of the people: “specifically, I want 3D printing to avoid the fate of the 2D printing business, where machines are programmed to self-destruct after a certain [number] of prints.  My best bet to avoid this is to go for not only open source, but self-replication by design.  Hangprinter is designed to manufacture a large fraction if its own parts and to be easy to build, copy, and make money from.”

Ludvigsen has demonstrated the Hangprinter at work, creating “a relatively simple and functional object – a lampshade.  The Hangprinter has also been cut loose on more artistic projects.  Ludvigsen recently used the system to assemble a five-foot sculpture of the Tower of Babel.”

“Ludvigsen hopes the Hangprinter will become versatile enough to print out furniture, tools, and possibly fully functional additional machines with moving parts of their own.”

In his own words, Ludvigsen says, “in addition to avoiding self-destructing machines, open source machinery may also distribute wealth and power towards median families like the one I grew up in.”

“[Hangprinter’s system] is a flexible manufacturing technique, so it will be useful in lots of different situations that I cannot foresee.  Some of them might be very important/cool/useful.  I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of important, cool, and useful things happening.”

It’s not just indoors where 3D printing can change the look of architectural structures, however…

Engineering reports another breakthrough by 3D printing company Micron3DP.  About a year ago, this company “announced its ability to 3D print molten glass.”  Now, Micron3DP says they “have installed alpha glass 3D printers within [their] own facilities for internal operation.”

Micron3DP’s new ‘alpha glass’ 3D printers “have build volumes…comparable to industrial fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers at 200 mm x 200 mm x 300 mm and layer thicknesses as fine as 100 microns.  Micron3DP’s patent-pending technology relies on an FDM-style approach, heating the material up to 1000 [degrees] Celsius.”

So far, however, “the only materials successfully printed [by Micron3DP’s new ‘alpha glass’ 3D printers] are soda lime and borosilicate [vases and other objects.”  In the future, though, Micron3DP’s staff envisions a world where these 3D printers’ capabilities could expand.

“From the looks of the parts printed so far, the material has limited use in terms of optics, but may be useful for its chemical resistance, sterilizability and ability to withstand high temperatures.  Micron3DP believes it will be useful in such fields as healthcare, architecture, the arts, security, microfluidics, and scientific research.”

Just imagine: now that the 3D printing industry is beginning to create buildings on a mass scale; not only could construction companies utilize 3D printing to print those buildings’ walls, but also their windows as well!

But what about the future of this intersection between architecture and additive manufacturing?

The Independent reports on a major new announcement made by a construction firm based out of the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  Cazza, the firm, “announced plans to build the world’s first 3D printed skyscraper…it will be erected in the United Arab Emirates.”

Of course, more and more houses and other buildings are being 3D printed around the world – but 3D printing an entire skyscraper is another feat altogether!  Typically, skyscrapers are buildings which rise (at the bare minimum) 40 or 50 stories above the ground.  How will Cazza 3D print such a structure?

Well, Cazza says they will utilize “a new technique called ‘crane printing’ to create the building.”  As Cazza CEO Chris Kelsey explains: “when we first thought of implementing 3D printing technologies, we were mostly thinking of houses and low-rise buildings.  Developers kept asking us if it was possible to build a 3D printed skyscraper.  This led us to begin researching how we could adapt the technologies for taller structures.”

“Through our technologies, we will be able to build architecturally complex building at never before seen speeds.  It is all about economies of scale where the initial high technology costs will reduce as we enter the mass production phase.”

Cazza has yet to announce exactly how high this 3D printed skyscraper will end up being, but “concrete and steel will be two of the materials printed by the company’s cranes [on this project.]”

Cazza’s Chief Operating Officer, Fernando De Los Rios, explains their company’s crane printing technique: “the crane printing system can be easily adopted with existing cranes which means we don’t have to build cranes from scratch.  We are adding new features to make it adaptable to high wind speeds along with the use of our layer smoothing system that creates completely flat surfaces.  You won’t know it’s 3D printed.”

Cazza hasn’t released word, yet, on when (or where, exactly) this project will break ground.

The future does indeed look bright for this kind of technological intersection.  The architectural industry will never look the same again – and it’s all thanks to 3D printing!

Image Courtesy of Apis Cor.

Quotes Courtesy of Futurism, Seeker, Engineering, and The Independent


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