David Rieck Personal Essay: Advances in 3D Printing

David Rieck

4/21/2013

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: http://protohouse.tumblr.com/post/13878227052/softkill-algorithm-combines-the-empirical-and

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.

Sources:  Protohouse.tumblr.com, Dezeen.com, www.softkilldesign.berta.me/

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