Author Archives: David Rieck

Advances in 3D Printing, Group Post

Laura Soria

Ben Hamilton

Evan Baum

Spencer Van Deusen

Jessie Werbach

David Rieck

3D Printing: Efficiency and Sustainability

3D printing wasn’t anything new to any of us upon selecting this as a research topic. In our sophomore year we all had a seminar that covered DAAP’s Rapid Prototyping Center in which we all learned about the wonders of laser cutting and 3D printing. We knew the basic idea of what it was and we knew the basic application of it. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been around for about thirty years. It has only been very recently, in the last several years or so, that it has become more mainstream. For most of its existence 3D printing technology has been too inefficient, inaccessible, too expensive, and not fast enough. Now, however, the reality is that 3D printing has become something that isn’t just available for a select group of people. From multiple materials that can now be printed, to the immense range of scale, to the incredibly diverse methods of application, 3D printing spans much farther than the design and production of objects. It is being used to tailor to athletes to give them an advantage on the field, it’s being used to print plastic parts of guns, it’s also being used to print heart-valves for patients. What we really wanted to strive for as a group was to define the line where 3D printing can be used in a more efficient and sustainable way than traditional manufacturing. In order to do this we focused in different products that are currently being developed that prove how 3D printing can be truly beneficial.

One interesting application of 3D printing that we’ve seen is the application in accessories and garments. Companies like Nike have used it to engineer a product that gives athletes a step up—excuse the pun—on the field. 3D printing in shoe production has allowed for lighter, stronger, longer lasting soles that couldn’t be produced otherwise. Individuals, such as architect turned-designer Iris van Herpen, have used 3D printing for the production of technology-driven garments at Paris Fashion Week. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities for this new process for customization, it’s not crazy to think of a world in which 3D printing will expand from customized shoes and too-complex-for-anytime wear-couture clothing to where a consumer will be able to order a shirt in his or her own size according to measurements that they input and then receive a perfectly tailored product.

Pushing further into finding the point where 3D printing can trump traditional manufacturing, we found a select few individuals who are searching for new sustainable ways to 3D print. Markus Kayser, a master’s student in product design at The Royal College of Art in London, has been translating the processes of SLS, or selective laser sintering, for solar implementation. He is designing a 3D printer that uses a Fresnel lens to focus the sun’s rays, photovoltaic cells power the machine bed, and light sensors that track the movement of the sun and adjust the machine’s positioning for optimal energy use. The abundance of energy and materials in the deserts of the world, Kayser argues, could help to lessen the issues of energy production and the shortages of raw materials, and opens the potential of desert manufacturing. Kayser also speaks about the potential for solar welding, cutting, bending, and smelting, and says that architecture could utilize the technology in the near future.

This is an amazing idea, as it could result in a net-zero or even energy-plus (creating surplus energy) manufacturing for building supplies, which could greatly reduce the overall ecological footprint of a project. Softkill design, a progressive architecture firm out of London, is approaching the sustainable side of 3D printing in a different way. Within the next year they are attempting to produce house in which the building components are entirely 3D printed. Gilles Retsin of Softkill explains how this form of construction could someday be a better option, “You’re aiming to use the smallest amount of material to achieve the strongest structure, and if you push that through to the extreme you get something that is extremely fibrous and extremely thin.” Retsin believes that not only will this house be faster and easier to construct, but less expensive as well. Also, the key sustainable factor will be that there will be almost zero waste during production. Every tiny fiber of plastic will have its place in the house, something that can only be achieved through the use of SLS 3D printing.

You can see that designers and architects are already looking for the same thing we were, a more sustainable and responsible use of 3D printing technology. Huge technological advancements in the last few years have finally enabled things like net-zero 3D printers and entire structures constructed of 3D printed materials to exist, and now that it’s available, people are taking advantage of it. We can expect to see a continuation in this sort of progress in upcoming years, as we are just lightly touching on the capabilities of 3D printing.

Links to individual papers:







David Rieck Personal Essay: Advances in 3D Printing

David Rieck


Ming Tang

Advances in 3D Printing

When talking about 3D printing, there are hundreds of topics one can cover varying from different types of 3D printers to different purposes of production and even different materials being printed. In order to not get caught up in every small detail that can be researched, our group decided to focus on the true benefits of 3d printing over traditional manufacturing techniques. Is there a point where 3d printing can be more sustainable, more efficient, and a better production option overall than traditional manufacturing? That’s what we wanted to find out, and in order to due so we divided up and each created a different case study covering one “genre” of 3D printing.

The case study I chose was supposed to focus on large-scale 3D printing, so I decided to research a 3D printed house called the Protohouse by Softkill Design. The reason I chose this over other designs was because they claimed it would be the first truly 3D printed house, printed off site and brought to the site to be constructed in less than a day.  Another building that is being “3D printed” is using a 3D printed form that will be filled with concrete for structure rather than a fully printed house. You can see in the image that the Protohouse uses one material throughout, for both structure and envelope, thus reducing the amount of materials used and construction time. Gilles Retsin of Softkill explains how this form of construction could someday be a better option, “You’re aiming to use the smallest amount of material to achieve the strongest structure, and if you push that through to the extreme you get something that is extremely fibrous and extremely thin.”

The building components for the Protohouse 2.0 will be fabricated in laser-sintered bioplastic, in smaller pieces that would be “snapped or buttoned” together on site. Once again, the idea here being to print with the least possible amount of material, and not having any extra pieces like screws or adhesives to add to the biological footprint of the project. Bioplastic is one of the only current 3D printing materials that doesn’t lose strength when printed in small fibers like sand or concrete does. In order to truly guarantee that they were doing so, Softkill Design developed a set of algorithms which are able to distribute material where it is needed most. This results in a super efficient fibrous structure, which is both highly organized and intricate. Processes of these algorithms can be seen through the firm’s Protohouse blog, or by following this link:

It seems that Softkill design is headed in the right direction for the future of 3D printing. They are not just 3D printing a house because they can or because they want it to be more intricate and beautiful than a regular home, they are searching for a more efficient and sustainable procedure, something that can only be achieved through proper planning and consideration. Hopefully they will be able to set a standard for 3D printing, showing that it is a valuable resource that could one day change the way we build cities.


Final Poster-Rieck, Van Deusen, Hayes, Weiss



Linnaeus by United Visual Artists

This piece by United Visual Artists is currently displayed in the Capability Brown restaurant in Syon Park, London. UVA used actual topical conditions throughout Syon Park to break the surface into sections that correspond with the relevant ecosystems. More complex vegetation and habitats branch off the original dividing lines until the final product was achieved. These organic branching forms are represented as if they were fossilized into the rocky topography.

This type of digitally fabricated 3D surface is one of the first of its kind, in the fact that it is displayed as a mural or a piece of art rather than a sculpture or object. It spans over thirty feet and is displayed under subtle angled lighting to show the contrast between the organic vegetation and the rough topography. When this much attention is paid to detail and design, it’s easy to see such a piece as art rather than a product of 3D fabrication.

Learn more about the concept here: