Posts tagged with "3D Printing":

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Operation PPE creates 3D-printed equipment for the COVID-19 front lines

Things right now are undoubtedly, brutally rough. And when the going gets rough, the architecture and design community gets 3D printing. As part of a sweeping grassroots mobilization effort that expands and evolves daily, architects, designers, makers, and a small army of displaced students have banded together and fired up their 3D printers to produce the personal protective equipment (PPE) so desperately needed in hospitals that are struggling to provide necessary gear to the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is, without question, the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. The numbers are truly staggering, and for medical professionals, it is very much like a war, causing casualties and death,” said Dr. James Pacholka MD, a surgeon at Southern Ohio Medical Center, in a statement shared with AN. “No one wants to fight a battle without adequate protection and the PPE’s are our armor, so any help we get in that regard is incredible. And for people using their expertise to help us in any way that they can is honestly beautiful, and serves as a warm reminder of mankind’s goodness and generosity.” In that regard, the architecture and design community has more than risen to the occasion. The Operation PPE effort began in earnest with an SOS of sorts sent via email late on March 24 by Kirstin Petersen, assistant professor at Cornell University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering to fellow professor Jenny Sabin, director of Sabin Lab at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) and principal of the eponymous architectural design studio based in Ithaca, New York. Petersen relayed the dire need for PPE (personal protective equipment), specifically face shields, at Weill Cornell Medicine, the university’s medical school and biomedical research unit in New York City. The request—initially estimated by Weill Cornell to be 20,000 to 50,000 per day in New York City—rapidly disseminated throughout multiple departments at the university. By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, Sabin, with the blessing of Meejin Yoon, dean of Cornell AAP, had reopened the school’s Digital Fabrication Lab, fired up all 10 of its 3D printers, and got to work. At the same time, Sabin spread the word to faculty, staff, and students while providing detailed instructions on the lab website. Petersen and Amy Kuceyeski, associate professor of mathematics at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, also started a Slack channel to keep lines of communication open and flowing in a single dedicated space. “We were able to respond to the need right away,” Sabin explained to AN. “And what started out as just a few labs on Cornell’s campus then began to grow.” Sabin and others that have since joined the Operation PPE movement are basing their output, which includes a laser-cut clear plastic shield alongside a 3D-printed visor band that snugly fits across a user’s forehead, on an open-source design file created by Erik Cederberg of Swedish company 3D Verkstan. That design, and that design only without any major modifications, has been verified for use by Weill Cornell. The shields, which can be discarded or sanitized and reused, are made from polyethylene sheets while the visor band component is generally made from PLA or ABS, both standard 3D printing materials. PET or PETG, however, is preferred by the medical community as it’s safer to reuse and longer-lasting. Once the components are distributed, hospital staff sanitizes and assembles the face shields. Ultimately, 3D-printed PPE is meant as a temporary solution, as desperate times call for creative measures. But as far as stopgap measures go at least one medical professional, an emergency room doctor at a major New York City Hospital, gave his approval: “The 3D shields and masks being made may be very useful, and can be designed with comfort, visibility, and re-usability in mind,” he said in a statement provided to AN.

A ground-up, grassroots movement grows

While Sabin’s Digital Fabrication Lab and other labs within Cornell departments that have access to 3D printers and laser cutters quickly got to work (all with an eye toward social distancing and overall safety), Yoon sent out an all-hands-on-deck email to the school’s vast network of alumni. Within 48 hours of Petersen reaching out to Sabin, a slew of major architecture firms—Terreform, Grimshaw, Bjarke Ingels Group, Handel Associates, Weiss Manfredi, and Kohn Pedersen Fox among them—had joined the effort. Edg Architecture, a mid-sized Manhattan-based architecture and engineering firm, also sprung into action. Notably, edg made a slight but critical adjustment to the visor band allowing for a tighter and more protective fit that also enabled production to increase by up to 20 percent. Currently, edg is producing up to 100 face shields per day and plans to launch a website to connect and coordinate those looking to pitch in. “In less than four days we had this massive web of people firing up their machines, dedicating material, and donating their time and effort,” remarked Sabin. As of this writing, Cornell's on-campus labs have donated 5,800 face shields, a number that jumps significantly when also including PPE made and donated by alumni architects and their networks. “Together and in a very short amount of time, we were able to respond to a gap within the supply chain by leveraging 3D printing and a network of digital fabrication labs. On one hand, 3D printing is not the best way to make these parts, and one 3D printer isn’t going to make an impact, but when you have thousands… it’s incredible.” Students and faculty from schools including Parsons, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon, and Iowa State have since joined Operation PPE. “The power of people coming together is just amazing,” said Sabin. Mitch McEwen, assistant professor at the Princeton School of Architecture and founding director of Black Box Research Group, has also played an active early role on the design and organizational fronts. As noted by McEwen, one area of focus for the team has been on the material supply chain. “How do you widen the stream of materials coming into this, and how do we get ahead of the curve on the next PPE disaster?” she said, adding that the Department of Health and Human Services has mentioned a potential shortage of PPE gowns is on the horizon. “PPE shortages have been cannibalizing the materials they already have.”

Expanding the network

Cornell AAP alumnus Jay Valgora, founder of multidisciplinary design firm STUDIO V, was among the first architects to enlist in Operation PPE and has been instrumental in helping get the word out wide and far. (His son, Jesse, an architecture student at Syracuse University, is also involved in the fabrication and material-sourcing efforts.) “Everyone wants to help and no one knows what to do,” Valgora told AN. “So it’s kind of great to not only do this—to get this equipment into the hands of medical workers who really need it—but it’s also great to give people a vehicle where they can help out and play a positive role.” Noting that his staff is now working from home remotely, Valgora said: “I can still go into the studio, which is empty now, so I went in there with Jesse and we dragged our 3D printers out and brought them home and set them up in our loft and started to print around the clock.” In addition to printing away alongside Jesse at his makeshift home lab, Valgora is teaming with Illya Azaroff, president-elect of AIA New York State, to help consolidate the growing number of different grassroots factions that have joined Operation PPE throughout the state. “We’re trying to create a larger movement to get more people involved,” said Valgora of his team-up with the AIA. “It would be great if the next step were to be to take this national.” While Valgora collaborates with AIA New York State to bolster outreach and involvement within the architecture community, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), acting as a clearinghouse, has also launched a formal intake process to better coordinate with local businesses looking to make and donate crucial medical supplies. The donations will be vetted by the Department of Health to ensure they meet safety protocols, at the scale needed for the city’s COVID-19 response. The NYCEDC has received over 1,700 queries from interested businesses in just several days Per Shavone Williams, vice president and chief of staff for public affairs at the NYCEDC, the businesses working directly with the city to produce PPE include Makerspace NYC, Adafruit, and Brooklyn-based custom fabrication company Bednark Studios. Between these three enterprises, 127,000 face shield kits were delivered to New York hospitals this past week.

The effort out West

In Southern California, similar PPE-producing efforts are underway including one directly inspired by Sabin Lab's call to arms that is spearheaded by Alvin Huang, an associate professor at the USC School of Architecture and founding principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture. Since putting out an open call week, Huang has brought together an initial network north of 80 people—largely USC faculty, alumni, and friends—working with 100 3D printers and three laser cutters. Students from other Los Angeles-area schools including SCI-arc and Santa Monica College have also joined the local effort as have firms including KAA Associates, ARUP, CO Architects, Michael Maltzan Architects, RCH Studios, and Brooks Scarpa. The gear-produced by the Huang-launched campaign is being distributed to, via coordinated pickups arranged by USC's Keck Medicine, to LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and MLK Willowbrook Hospital. Like the effort originating at Cornell, Huang’s bourgeoning L.A.-centered network is creating and distributing protective face shields using a new design from Budman that’s been approved by Keck. The primary focus, however, is on producing 3D-printed “pseudo N95 masks,” which are also verified by Keck. N95 masks, which as others involved with the Operation PPE effort have pointed out, are not being produced at the same scale as face shield kits because 3D printers simply cannot replicate their complex design in a way that meets medical standards. “We brought this to the attention of Keck as we were concerned that we might be leading people to think they are safe when they’re not,” Huang told AN. “Keck said they were fully aware and had tested everything [...] they said these masks were not what they are using now, and they’re not a replacement for medical-grade PPE. They’re backups to the backup.” “This might be the scariest thing I’ve heard,” admitted Huang. “But Keck’s response was that this is wartime medicine, and we’re preparing for war, and in wars you need a backup to the backup. And Keck identified this as a backup that’s one level above using homemade cloth masks, bandanas, and socks.” It’s a grim assessment, for sure, but these are extraordinary times. As for Sabin, she’s looking past the bleakness and focusing on the synergetic, humane work being done by a community united by one common objective. “For me, the important thing to get out there is the network of people that have come together. The bridge, in terms of working across disciplines, has very much been the context of emerging technology, especially in digital fabrication and 3D printing,” she said. “There’s a kind of democratic space in that it is informal and bottom-up, and we’ve been able to make a real impact in that way. I think everybody’s been looking for a way to contribute during this difficult and unprecedented time, and I think this is a real and positive way to come together even though we can’t be near each other physically. And every visor, every shield, makes a difference.” For those without a 3D printer or digital fabrication skills, please see #GetUsPPE to explore other ways in which you can help.
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This 3D-printed doghouse can hold up to 1,000 tennis balls

The doghouse, that ubiquitous shelter found in backyards across the globe, has seen little in the way of innovation—that is until now. The Fetch House, developed by CallisonRTKL’s Dallas team, is a 3D-printed abode for our canine companions that simultaneously functions as a storage device for at least 1,000 tennis balls. The prototype was awarded Best in Show at the AIA Dallas’s 2019 Texas Bark + Build Design/Build competition. Following the form of a traditional pentagonal post-and-beam structure, the Fetch House is composed of a floor plate, three perpendicular elevations, and a gabled roof. The pattern of the facade is largely based off of the standard dimension of tennis balls, 2.7" by 2.7", which are offset and held in compression by plastic armatures. Once inserted, the tennis balls provide the canine inhabitants shade and ventilation by virtue of the structure’s cellular layout. No two dogs are the same, and the parametric design of the Fetch House allows for owners to customize the dimensions of the doghouse—the digital script used by CallisonRTKL includes plugins for height, weight, and breed. The customizability of the prototype is made simple through the modular fabrication of components, which can be easily snapped together without the aid of any tools or further equipment. For the design team, materiality was one of the greatest challenges of the prototype and they limited the total number to three types of plastic. “Trying to reduce the amount of print material used without compromising the structural integrity of the design was a challenge as the plastic would react differently depending on the print orientation and final orientation within the grid,” said CallisonRTKL vice president Brendan O'Grady. “We also had to make sure the individual pieces didn’t take too long to print so a number of prototypes were made throughout the design process to optimize the design and fine-tune the print settings.”    
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MIT’s visiting artist envisions floating, 3D-printed sculptures lighter than air

Thom Kubli, the current Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) visiting artist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), came to the institution with an interest in seemingly magical devices with functions less practical than metaphysical. In collaboration with members of the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, the artist and composer has been developing a machine that can 3D print objects light enough to float upwards once assembled. Kubli first tinkered with the concept in 2016 with Black Hole Horizon, an installation at the electronic arts festival Ars Electronica that comprised three horns that generated large soap bubbles in relation to the noise produced. Kubli's installation statement read that “visitors could walk through the room witnessing the transformation of sound into ephemeral sculptures, which last only for seconds before their material remains were deposited on the walls and floor.” Hiroshi Ishii, director of the Tangible Media Group, was in attendance during that year’s exhibition and later invited the artist to produce a more rigorous version of Black Hole Horizon using the Media Lab’s resources and knowledge base. “We at MIT do very scientific, analytical, pragmatic work,” Ishii said in a statement, “But also I strongly believe the artistic, also poetic, aspect is very critical to inspire people.” If all goes well, the final product, Orbiting, will be an “aerial archive” of helium-filled, 3D-printed objects that symbolize modern cultural and technological achievements. They will be printed from a small machine set in the center of a room, then float upwards and get caught in a thermal stream installed on the ceiling to produce a mobile-like installation that will last for a few minutes at a time before its elements gently fall back to the ground. For Kubli, the execution of the project neatly combines the dual interests in art and science that have made the Media Lab what it is today. The concept of weightlessness is one that has challenged engineers and artists alike. The dilema currently facing the design team is developing fabrication technology that can produce sophisticated geometry using a process similar to that of a bubble-blowing machine. “No one has ever made a machine that produces a floating object,” said Kyung Yun Choi, lead researcher for the project. “So from the scientific or engineering point of view, it’s really interesting and very challenging,” Previous CAST visiting artists have similarly walked the tightrope between science and design, including Tomás Saraceno, Trevor Paglen, and Diemut Strebe.
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3D-printed houses completed for Austin’s homeless population

ICON, a robotics and advanced materials startup based in Austin, Texas, made headlines on the grounds of the 2018 South by Southwest Festival when it presented a prototype for a 3D-printed home created under 24 hours at a cost of $10,000. Two years later, the company applied its tools to the city's affordable housing crisis when it recently unveiled a small neighborhood of six 3D printed homes that will soon be ready for occupancy. The 400-square-foot dwellings, the first full 3D-printed homes in the country, are now a part of Community First Village, a 51-acre master-planned community in northeastern Austin providing affordable, permanent housing and social services for the city’s former homeless community. The structures, designed by local firm Logan Architecture with finishings by Franklin Alan, all feature a single bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen, living room, and porch. “The promise of ICON’s 3D-printing technology is really exciting,” Alan Graham, the founder of the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes which opened the village in 2016, said in a press statement, “and what better place to start putting it to use than in one of the country’s most innovative neighborhoods designed to serve men and women who have experienced the trauma of homelessness? Vulnerable populations like the homeless are never among the first to access leading-edge anything, but now here in Austin, they’re among the first in line who will be living in some of the most unique homes ever built—and we think that’s a beautiful thing.” To produce the homes, ICON used their 2-ton, 11-foot-tall Vultan II printer, which extrudes a proprietary concrete mixture the team refers to as “Lavacrete.” ICON cofounder and CEO Jason Ballard believes the technology can be easily applied to the country’s affordable housing crisis in light of the relatively short construction time it affords, as well as the often small environmental footprint and design flexibility. Thanks to the ability to print the walls of three homes at a time, the Community First Village project is nearly complete and will open to its first occupants this spring. More tiny home communities will likely pop up across the country in the near future given the recent passing of the YIMBY Act, a bill written to streamline affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing, by the House of Representatives. A similar community of 40 units traditionally-built shelters was recently completed in San Jose, California, on a formerly vacant property owned by the Valley Transit Authority.
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Home 3D printed from locally sourced clay takes shape in Italy

Italian architect Mario Cucinella of Mario Cucinella Architects (MC A) has long been a champion of 3D printing technology. But while architecture students and firms commonly reserve space of their desks for a 3D printer to create high-fidelity scale models as communicative tools, Cucinella has set his sights much higher than the rest. Last September, printing began on the architect’s first prototype of a two-room house in Massa Lombarda, a quiet comune east of Bologna, Italy. Named TECLA in a nod to an imaginary place in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the home was engineered by Italian company WASP to become the very first to be entirely printed from a locally-sourced clay that is both biodegradable and recyclable. That material is extruded through a pipe and set in place using a Crane WASP, a modular 3D printing system that can print objects as large as 21 feet in diameter and as tall as nine feet. TECLA’s earthy color, layered texture, and lack of right angles lends the home a resemblance to prehistoric dwellings and non-human habitats. And like those precedents, TECLA is also a product of its immediate environment and uses virtually zero waste. “Together with WASP” Cucinella said in a press statement, “we aim at developing an innovative 3D-printed prototype for a habitat that responds to the increasingly urgent climate revolution and the needs of changes dictated by community needs. We need a paradigm shift in the field of architecture that gets closer to the needs of people, thus finding an answer for the "Earth" within the "earth". A collaboration that becomes the union between empathic architecture and the application of new technologies.”

TECLA was developed through a set of research programs within the School of Sustainability, a program in Bologna founded by Cucinella to “train the design leaders of the post-carbon era,” according to its website. The time-efficient and materially resourceful project was established to address both the ballooning of the global population and the environmental impact associated with the building industry.

The first prototype received planning approval in May of last year, and construction is scheduled to be complete within the next few months.
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Morphosis’s Kerenza Harris talks tech and integration

Kerenza Harris is the director of design technology at Morphosis, where she works across the firm to integrate advanced computational techniques and high-tech simulations throughout the design process. Ahead of her presentation on system-based design processes and extended reality at TECH+ in Los Angeles next week, AN caught up with Harris to get her takes on prototyping, parametricism, virtual reality, and more. On going from the screen, to prototype, to facade: Kerenza Harris: We work in a highly iterative process. We go over a form or design element again and again and again, almost on a loop, and we're trying to use the new forms in reference to other models and they're linked parametrically, meaning that there's a knowledge from the shape itself of what it is, where it is, and what its role is playing. For example, when we created those modules (those little white forms, or “pillows,” as we call them) for the facade of the Kolon One & Only Tower in Seoul, South Korea, we had to start with the results of the study of light, views. and solar exposure. So the pillows are instantiated in a digital model, as a T-shaped object informed by the performance requirements of these three factors, and then this three-dimensional thing must also have a thickness, so we have to take into account structural demands as well, which we were able to achieve with a monocoque system.  But the key thing is that, from the moment of inception, this piece will continue to exist and evolve throughout the project. We're trying to avoid erasing or redoing anything—instead, we're creating a smart element that has an identity and certain characteristics and which will continue to develop throughout the project. This intelligence will influence how the piece modulates itself, when we start inputting certain performance requirements or material characteristics. So it moves forward throughout the project; it's part of a process of loops that also includes hand sketching, 2D drawing, simulation, analysis, 3D printing, and digital model making.  In the case of the Kolon project, we created a physical, full-size prototype of the facade element. What we were trying to accomplish had never been done in our desired material before, in fiberglass. We had to find a fabricator, get into a relationship with that fabricator, find out how they fabricate the thing in the first place, learn the properties of the materials, composite mix, and so on. We got involved and we built a one-to-one version of this thing. On how a systems-focused approach can shape how architects work: Instead of thinking about design as the creation of separate components—such as rooms, doors, facade pieces, toilets and windows, and so forth, we're taking a step back, and trying to understand projects in terms of organizational systems and workflows. Each of these systems has a behavior and a certain way that they interact with each other. Understanding components in terms of broader systems, we can globalize a workflow—for example, creating rules for certain systems or object classes, instead of applying meaning to individuals elements, in a sense. Once you establish the system, the pieces are very powerful, and they work on a local scale or a global scale. They can work on urban master plan design or they can work in the design of a chair. It's really efficient, but also a little tricky because it introduces order but then at the same time may produce disorder you wouldn’t otherwise encounter dealing with objects individually. Things may emerge from these systems that were unanticipated. When you push the number of systems or components to the maximum, and their interaction becomes more and more complex, you may find yourself with new, emergent conditions that you were not planning or designing for. And that's actually what we're looking for, what we’re really interested in: something akin to the unexpected conditions of a city that’s developed over a long period of time.  On virtual reality: Four years ago we were commissioned to transform a suite of hotel rooms at the Therme Vals resort in Switzerland. The existing rooms were very small, but within each we wanted to fit a freestanding, curved glass shower as a kind of light sculpture in the center.  But we were struggling with the models for this project. It was quite difficult, from the digital model and scaled 3D-printed studies, to really assess the height of the table and certain things and how they would be used and navigated by guests, especially because it was all custom-made furniture, custom-made spaces in a very tight area. And so we built a movie set, almost. We used foam core, and someone went in and actually modeled one-to-one the hotel room using tape and glue so that we could actually stand in the space. It was alright, for a project of that scale—but I immediately thought, "Okay, we need to find another way because this doesn't quite work." We needed a way of inhabiting our spaces during design that would be easier, faster, more integrated with our workflow. So I got interested in VR. The headsets on the market were still clunky then. But we purchased one for the office to try it out, and it immediately made a difference. That development coincided with the beginning of the new Orange County Museum of Art design. In addition to having the typical concerns of an art museum regarding sight-lines and lighting, the building has complex geometry and a big atrium skylight above the entrance. The broader team and project stakeholders were struggling sometimes to understand how the spaces worked because it was hard to experience from the plan or computer screen. And the renderings were strong, but they still couldn’t really capture the feeling of it. We started putting people in there in VR. We put the designers in, too. VR just gives you a completely different perspective on the work that you do. And it's also the first time that you can see your project at a one-to-one scale without spending millions of dollars to actually build it. And we’re getting to the point where this immersion can be immediately accessed. Now, in the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE / CATIA parametric software that we use, you can just go in the model with your headset, in real-time. With this platform, you don’t need to render it or use any other software. I have a feeling this will be the next real game-changer for the industry. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
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Kisawa Sanctuary will be a 740-acre resort 3D-printed with local sand and seawater

Benguerra Island, a small body of land off the coast of Mozambique in southeastern Africa, is about to become the site of an ambitiously-constructed luxury resort. Spread across 740 acres, Kisawa Sanctuary will feature 12 generously-sized bungalows, each of which will be set on a private acre of land with amenities including accessible beachfronts, swimming pools, massage huts, and extensively-shaded areas. In addition to the private areas, there will be four restaurants, tennis courts, water sports facilities, and two bars. The design of the buildings throughout the resort was inspired by traditional Mozambican dwellings and will be decorated and furnished with pieces made by local artisans. Developed through a partnership between entrepreneur Nina Flohr and the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, a Mozambique-based nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the local subtropical ecosystem, Kisawa Sanctuary will be 3D-printed using a combination of local sand and seawater to reduce material waste on the site. To develop the structures for Kisawa, according to Condé Nast Traveler, “a computer-generated design is sent to a 3D printer, where it's divvied up into layers. The printer's nozzle then draws in the desired material—in the case of Kisawa, a sand-and-seawater mortar—and pipes it out to create the structure from the bottom up.” Other elements on the site will be constructed with minimal waste to ensure the resort “has a light touch on the land but a deep engagement with nature” in an effort to compete with other eco-tourism destinations around the world, such as El Mangroove in Costa Rica and The Resort at Isla Palenque in Panama. “We’ve used design as a tool, not as a style,” Flohr explained to Traveler, "to ensure Kisawa is integrated, culturally and environmentally, to Mozambique.” Construction of the resort is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, and staying there is expected to set visitors back a minimum of $8,124 USD per night.
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Apis Cor claims to have created the largest on-site 3D-printed building

Dubai is now home to what is claimed to be the world’s largest on-site 3D-printed building. The 31-foot-tall, two-story government agency was printed in on-site three weeks using a single printer developed by the Boston-based Apis Cor, which has previously garnered attention for their sub-$10,000 printed home and for winning NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge along with SEarch+ for their Martian housing proposal. To realize the 6,889-square-foot structure, Apis Cor moved its automobile-sized printer, which is powered by custom software, around the construction site with a crane, along with the help of three workers. Each wall was printed using a mix of locally-available common products like cement and gypsum, along with proprietary materials the company has developed. Steel rebar was added to reinforce the walls and the foundation was laid using standard construction techniques and insulation, while the roofing and windows were added by workers as well. Apis Cor noted that working unsheltered in the harsh climate required “extensive R&D,” and the team had to develop a process and mix of materials well suited to the changing conditions. (Moscow State University of Civil Construction also lent help with structural modeling.) Despite the severe and shifting environment, Dubai has become a center of experimentation in 3D printing, for construction and in other industries such as medicine. The city aims to have 25 percent of its buildings created with 3D printing by 2030. However, Apis Cor says that its tech is adaptable to other climates and it will be heading to Louisiana and California next to build affordable housing; a use for 3D printing which many claim will be cheaper, faster, and stronger than traditional methods and that has been the focus of other startups such as the Texas-based ICON
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Boston architects come together to make a 3D-printable map of the city

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has long kept 3D models of its city. However, cobbled together over the years, the files are at times cumbersome and as firms increasingly turn to 3D printing for model making and testing, not so useful. Printers don’t know how to process them or they are not designed in a way that print with stability. MakeTANK, an initiative of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) saw this as an opportunity. MakeTANK was initially started to “integrate maker culture into the design process,” according to Sasaki director of technical resources Bradford J. Prestbo, who has been intimately involved with the project along with the rest of the firm. The hope was to leverage the many makers and maker spaces in the greater Boston area, and help architects increase client engagement and decrease contractor risk—and cost—by testing their designs out first. “Imagine going into a restaurant where the chef only wrote recipes and has never actually cooked them,” said Prestbo, half-joking. “That's kind of like the architectural profession today, where we just do a lot of paper architecture and paper designs without going through the process to actually taste what we've coupled together to make sure it's actually an effective solution that also will perform long term.”  City Print is MakeTANK's latest project, just announced at ABX19, though it’s been under development for over a year. The collaborative team of architects that came together for City Print developed a series of scripts that helped turn the existing models of Boston into “watertight solids,” meaning that when processed in Grasshopper they can be effectively fed into 3D printers. They also added additional topographic details. The process, however, could not be fully automated. The files have to be individually opened, the scripts ran, and all of it double and triple checked for quality control. To help convert the over 200 model tiles of the city to be 3D ready, MakeTANK has enlisted the “who’s who” of Boston-area architects. “We are engaging in the greater AEC community to help us process the tiles,” explained Jay Nothoff, Sasaki fabrication studio manager, “and then turning around and handing this resource back to that same community as a finished project for everyone to enjoy and use as they will further project work.” The revamped models will be added to the BPDA's free repository and the BSA is using them themselves. They’ll be replacing their lobby's current scale model of the city—the basis of which was originally designed in the 1980s and is mostly focused on the financial district—with a new, modular replica made from these printed files. “We're zooming out from the financial district,” said Nothoff. “We're including the City of Boston in its entirety and we're making a model that is easily updated because it is built off a grid system. As portions of the city change and grow, these titles are semi-precious at best; they're just going to be held in place with magnets so we can pull the tile and put a new one in its place to most accurately represents the City of Boston in its current state.” Felipe Francisco, an architectural designer at Sasaki, went on to explain that many community groups didn’t feel represented by the previous BSA model. “We're open to try and create a new dialogue with those groups,” explained Francisco. “We want to use this as a resource for community groups to be able to come in and use this model to diagram stories over it through projection mapping about their communities.” By collaborating with visualization experts, the BSA is developing tools to use the re-built model as a storytelling and visualization device. “The intention is to build a base projection for the model itself that delineates roads, waterways and what have you,” said Nothoff. On top of that could be layered information on sea-level rise, income data, other metrics, or more abstract visuals. “We're reaching out to various organizations throughout the greater Boston area, such as the Boston Foundation, to help us gather all the voices that are currently feeling underrepresented and give them equity with his model and teach them how to use the projection map on to the model and tell their story.” The process is ongoing. Interested area firms can “check out” tiles from a grid of the city, and for a dose of healthy competition, check out a leader board. “You grab a tile, fill out a form, and submit it and shortly thereafter you get all the support files and the working files and scripting as well as instructions on how to process them,” explained Prestbo.
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3D printing nano-tech inspired forms could lead to stronger, lighter buildings

Researchers at Rice University have developed a technique that makes 3D-printed common materials diamond-hard. Inspired by the theoretical form of tubulanes—a carbon nanotube structure that scientists predicted in the 1990s would have tremendous strength but have been unable to produce—the researchers scaled the structures up and found that these larger-scale imitators still maintained many of the theoretical nanotubes’ powerful properties. The team, headed up by Seyed Mohammad Sajadi working at the lab of Pulickel Ajayan, recently reported their results in the journal Small Tubulanes were conceived of by chemist Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas and physicist Douglas Galvão of the State University of Campinas, Brazil back in 1993 (both authors are named as co-authors of the recent paper, “3D Printed Tubulanes as Lightweight Hypervelocity Impact Resistant Structures”). Back in 2017, the researchers at Rice also demonstrated that another theoretical nanostructure, schwarzites, could similarly be approximated at a larger scale with traditional materials. While it remains outside the scope of current technology to produce the theoretical tubulanes, the creation of a scaled-up version of these interlocking curvacious forms promises many advantages over traditional structures. The scientists first ran computer simulations of various blocks made of tubulane-inspired forms, before 3D printing polymer versions. They then put the hole-filled blocks to the test the best way they could: by shooting them. Unlike solid blocks of the same material that shatter, these blocks barely dented, proving themselves ten times more effective at stopping a bullet than the solid counterparts. Under crush tests, the sample structures similarly folded in slowly, rather than shattering or losing all structural integrity. But what does this mean for architecture? The team at Rice envisions a future where ceramic, concrete, steel, and other common building materials could be printed in porous tubular approximations. Limited only by the size of the printer, these structures could someday form the basis of ultra-strong building materials that are more durable and react more safely to stress, all while being lighter and, if left uncovered, having a unique, knit-like aesthetic.
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Jenny Sabin's installation for Microsoft responds to occupants' emotions

At Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, campus, architect Jenny Sabin has helped realize a large-scale installation powered by artificial intelligence. Suspended from three points within an atrium, the two-story, 1,800-pound sculpture is a compressive mesh of 895 3D-printed nodes connected by fiberglass rods and arranged in hexagons along with fabric knit from photoluminescent yarn. Created as part of Microsoft’s artist-in-residence program, the project is named Ada, after Ada Lovelace, the English mathematician whose work on the analytical engine laid the groundwork for the invention of computer programming as we know it. Anonymized information is collected from microphones and cameras throughout the building. An AI platform designed by a team led by researcher Daniel McDuff processes this data to try to accurately sense people’s emotions based on visual and sonic cues, like facial movements and voice tone. This data is then synthesized and run through algorithms that create a shifting color gradient that Ada produces from an array of LEDs, fiber optics, and par (can) lights. “To my knowledge, this installation is the first architectural structure to be driven by artificial intelligence in real-time,” Sabin, Microsoft’s current artist in residence, told the company’s AI Blog. Microsoft touts Ada as an example of “embedded intelligence,” AI that’s built-in and responsive to our real-world environment. McDuff also hopes that his emotion tracking technology, as dystopian as it might sound, could have solutions in healthcare or other caregiving situations. (Microsoft employees are able to opt-out of individuated tracking and they assure that all identifying info is removed from the media collected).  Ada is part of a broader push to embed sensing and artificial intelligence into the built environment by Microsoft and many other companies, as well as artistic pavilions that grapple with the future of AI in our built world, like Refik Anadol's recent project at New York's ARTECHOUSE.
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University of Michigan researchers arm a drone with a nailgun

There have been many uses proposed for drones: photography and videography, certainly; package delivery, and aerial 3D mapping. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan have proposed yet another possibility for these scaled-down aircraft—as flying nailguns. While the FAA may have banned people from attaching flamethrowers to their octocopters, U of M researchers say the armed DJI-S1000 is here to help humans, not hurt. By creating an autonomous roofing robot, they hope they can spare humans from doing the dangerous job of applying asphalt shingles. With location markers and video cameras sending imagery to be processed through a modified version of ArduPilot, an open-source autopilot software, the drone is able to find the edges of the shingle, nail within a one-inch gap, and apply the adequate download pressure to nail the shingle to the roof. Currently, this drone roofer can’t compete with the speed of a human worker, and it only has a 10-minute lifespan, but the researchers hope they can connect the drone to a generator on the ground, as well as a pneumatic system to put in an upgraded nailgun. They also hope to upgrade the onboard sensing for more accurate, quicker wayfinding.  The nail gun drones are just some of many proposals for using drone tech in AEC, ranging from the highly speculative, such as GXN’s proposal for flying skyscraper repair robots, to the in-use—such as many contractors' application of drone photography on job sites. Everything including using drones for painting has been proposed by researchers, but even as technology improves, drones are still only suited to replacing the most monotonous and dangerous human tasks.