Posts tagged with "3D Printing":

Placeholder Alt Text

New robot technology by Dutch designer can 3D-print a steel bridge in mid-air over a canal

New to the list of job functions up for replacement by technology: bridge construction. Dutch designer Joris Laarman has founded MX3D, a research and development company currently tinkering with a never-before-seen 3D printer that can weld steel objects in mid-air. In 2017, Laarman will deposit the robot on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam and walk away. When he returns two months later, a 24-foot steel bridge will arc over the canal, built utterly without human intervention yet capable of accommodating normal foot traffic for decades. This potentially revolutionizing technology by MX3D and Autodesk can “draw” and fabricate city infrastructure on location, which has radical implications for the construction industry. Far from being makeshift, the finished bridge will feature an intricate design that looks more handcrafted than the detailing on a typical bridge. 3D printing allows for granular control of detail that industrial manufacturing does not, accommodating designs that are more ornate and bespoke than the detailing on most bridges. While 3D printers normally transact in resin or plastic, Laarman’s bridge will be fabricated from a steel composite developed by the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. It will be as strong as regular steel but can be dolloped drop by drop by a 3D printer. The unique printer itself has no printer bed. Using additive printing technology, it “works like a train,” according to Fast Company. “Except instead of running along existing tracks it prints out its own as it goes along.” The six-axis robot can move horizontally, vertically and even diagonally, and can hence traverse gaps like a canal or the empty space between walls. “We thought to ourselves: what is the most iconic thing we could print in public that would show off what our technology is capable of?” Laarman told Fast Company. “This being the Netherlands we decided a bridge over an old canal was a pretty good choice. Not only is it good for publicity, but if MX3D can construct a bridge out of thin air, it can construct anything.” Laarman enlisted design and engineering software company Autodesk to help rectify common 3D printing glitches – namely, designing a robot with a real-time feedback loop capable of correcting itself when errors occur. Typically, when a drop of resin is misplaced, the robot has no way of “knowing,” so that all subsequent drops are misplaced and the design is maimed. Given that the robot will build in public, foreseeable errors extend beyond internal mechanical failures. The machine must be primed to withstand temperature fluctuations that cause metal to expand and even “kids hurling beer bottles at the robot.” “Robots tend to assume that the universe is made of absolutes, even though that’s not true,” said Maurice Conti, head of Autodesk’s Applied Research Lab. “So we need to program them to have real-time feedback loops, and adapt in real time without even being told to.” If successful, MX3D’s technology could open up avenues for unprecedented design possibilities and cost efficiency in the fields of construction, architecture, design, and more.
Placeholder Alt Text

Florida International University to be the first arts and design college to launch a Makerbot Innovation Lab

With 3D printing becoming a major impetus in cultivating startup culture, Florida International University (FIU) is launching a MakerBot Innovation Lab, a 3,000-square-foot makerspace for students and community members to develop product ideas and conduct research. Set to be equipped with 30 state-of-the-art 3D printers and four 3D scanners, the space can serve up to 60 students at a time, with one 3D printer between every two work stations. The school bagged a $185,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to build the facility. “Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen enormous growth over the last few years—adding co-working spaces, mentor and funder networks, educational offerings and a host of events,” Matt Haggman, program director of the Knight Foundation, said in a statement. “But there are few established makerspaces where entrepreneurs can experiment and build. The MakerBot Innovation Lab will help to fill this gap, providing the next generation of Miami talent with a space to realize their ideas and inviting the community to connect toward building a stronger startup culture in our city.” FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts will be the only arts/design college in the nation to house a MakerBot Innovation Lab, according to John Stuart, associate dean for cultural and community engagement and executive director of Miami Beach Urban Studios. The lab’s launch creates abundant educational opportunities as well as a space for public programs. The makerspace will support workshops for elementary and middle school students, dual enrollment programs for high school students, for-credit classes for FIU students and startup programs for recent graduates. FIU’s Urban Studios, a creative space for the performing and fine arts, will work with FIU colleagues and students in hospitality, medicine, and other disciplines to conceive projects to fulfill a community need, such as outfitting homes to be safer for the disabled. The school will also collaborate with Miami Beach–based Rokk3r Labs, a company "co-builder," to hold workshops, seminars and other programming within the Makerbot Innovation Lab.
Placeholder Alt Text

American Standard makes a splash with 3D-printed sculptural faucets as the brand turns 150

American Standard has debuted a series of high-end 3D-printed faucets evoking sculptural artwork. Formed by selective laser sintering, each design presents a creative play on the way water cascades from it. While faucets have long been prototyped using 3D deposition modeling, the plumbing and building product manufacturer claims that this series of luxury faucets is the first ready-for-market faucet wrought using powerful lasers. In a process lasting 24 hours, a computer-guided laser beam fuses powdered metal into the shape of a faucet under intense heat and pressure conditions. A solid metal block then arises from the powder, and this solid item is then hand-finished and polished to reveal and bevel the design. The series’ most out-there design is an angular, high-strength alloy faucet made with 19 tiny, concealed waterways that converge at the top to conjure the sensation of a stream flowing over rocks while creating the impression of the water magically appearing. “The team used Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) technology to adjust each of the 19 waterways to achieve the proper effect,” the brand claimed in a statement. Another design features a mesh of delicate latticework, while a third has waterways separated into thin sections for a more traditional appearance. American Standard, now celebrating 15 decades in the business, directed a panel of seven hand-selected designers and architects to develop designs reflecting today’s aesthetic and performance standards. If you’re the type who sees a faucet as more than just a plumbing fixture, be prepared to shell out $12,000 to $20,000.
Placeholder Alt Text

Beneath this 200 year old monument to George Washington, a time capsule filled with 3D printed scans will send messages to the future

What do you put in a 21st century time capsule inside the cornerstone of a 19th century landmark that’s undergoing restoration? If the landmark is the nation’s first monument to George Washington, you put in a 3D printed likeness of the first president, hot off the 3D printer, of course. That’s the idea behind the four shiny objects that will be sealed within an 1815-era cornerstone and placed below the base of the Washington Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, home of the aforementioned first monument to Washington. The city-owned monument, designed by Robert Mills as a centerpiece for Mount Vernon Place, is undergoing a $5.5 million restoration that’s nearing completion. Planners say this is one of the first instances, to their knowledge, of 3D-printed objects being placed in the cornerstone of a restored monument for future generations to discover—and the objects actually mirror elements of the monument itself. “It’s a twist on history,” said Lance Humphries, an architectural historian who serves as chairman of the monument restoration committee of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, a nonprofit group that’s working with the city to restore Baltimore’s Washington Monument and improve the public squares around it. “We like the idea of using this 3D technology as a way of leaving a record for the future… It’s incredible technology.” The restoration work will be complete and the monument will reopen to the public on July 4, 2015, exactly 200 years after the cornerstone was laid to signal the start of construction. It has been closed for repairs since 2010. The four objects, displayed publicly for the first time during a media event Sunday, April 12, include a mini bust of Washington, a mini statue, a mask-like reproduction of the face on Washington’s statue, and a life sized replica of one of his hands, holding a scroll. All four objects were made with 3D scanning and printing technology by Maryland based companies whose principals specialize in the process and wanted to apply it to historic preservation. Noting that time capsules and cornerstones often contain newspapers from the day they were sealed, Humphries said 3D printing is essentially a 21st century way to impart information that was previously conveyed in print form. He said the conservancy’s goal, in placing miniature replicas depicting pieces of the statue inside the cornerstone, was to leave behind information that could tell future preservationists about the statue’s condition after 200 years. “These 3D images will show the future the condition of the statue in 2015,” he explained. “We don’t know when they will be found, but when they are, they will help future generations understand how the statue appeared during the monument’s bicentennial year.” Unlike Robert Mills’ Washington Monument in the nation’s Capitol, which is a marble clad obelisk, Baltimore’s 178-foot-tall monument is a classical Doric column atop a stone base, with a larger-than-life statue of Washington at the top. The standing figure, by Italian sculptor Enrico Causici, depicts Washington resigning his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1783. For years, visitors could climb to the top of the Baltimore monument and enjoy unobstructed views in all directions. But the monument was closed to the public after Humphries, from an outdoor café a block away, noticed imperfections in the stonework near the top of the monument and reported what he saw to city officials. That triggered a chain of events that led to the current repair effort. During the restoration, workers discovered the 1815 cornerstone, with contents from that year, and a second time capsule from 1915. The 1915 time capsule has not been opened but will be soon. The 1815 cornerstone was opened in February. Its contents included newspapers from 1815, glass jars, coins, and a likeness of Washington. As part of activities leading up to the 200th anniversary of the cornerstone laying in July, conservancy members wanted to re-bury the 1815 cornerstone, again with objects that might send a message to future generations. Museum conservators recommended that they not re-bury the fragile artifacts from 1815, to ensure their preservation. That’s when Humphries came up with the idea of turning the 1815 cornerstone into a time capsule containing miniature versions of parts of the Washington statue, made with 3D printing technology. Humphries said he thought it would make sense to include another likeness of Washington, since the cornerstone originally had one, and he thought it would be reflective of the changing times to have the 2015 likeness made with 3D printing. In the early 1800s, he said, “printing was about reading. Now it’s about making something in three dimensions, which is a big change over 200 years.” Humphries said he doesn’t know if any other time capsules or cornerstones have been sealed containing 3D-printed objects, but he isn’t aware of any and hopes this is one of the first cases. He said he thought it would be a good way to give people in the future an idea of the technology available to Americans in 2015. “I’m sure in 3015, they are going to say, ‘That was a really primitive thing they used,’ but that is what we use today. “ While scaffolding was still up around the monument, Washington’s statue was documented with 3D scanning technology by Direct Dimensions of Owings Mills, Maryland. A digital scan was taken to create a record of the statue’s condition in 2015. The same scan was used to print the miniature 3D images of the statue that are going in the cornerstone. The four objects were printed in nylon by NextLine Manufacturing of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Then, to ensure that they would last, the 3D models were electroplated for durability, first in copper and then in nickel, by a Halethorpe company called RePliForm. Although the coatings give the objects a metallic appearance, the figures are relatively light, as if they were made with plastic. Michael Raphael, the founder and chief executive officer of Direct Dimensions, said Baltimore’s collection of objects may be the first of its kind, “a set of miniature replicas of an historical monument enshrined back into the cornerstone for future generations to see.” Raphael said 3D scanning can be a valuable tool in preserving statues and other works of art that are kept outdoors. “We strongly believe that cultural artifacts, especially those exposed to the elements... are among the most important treasures requiring 3-D digital documentation,” he said. “Three dimensional scanning provides a fast, accurate means for permanent documentation and future restoration of cultural artifacts under constant risk of destruction by weather, pollution, or other disasters.” One of the four objects, the hand, is hollow in the middle and will contain a handwritten letter, like a message in a bottle. The letter, written in English, will describe the restoration project and the statue’s condition at the 200-year mark. Whoever finds the four objects, Humphries said, will be able to compare the condition of the statue in 2015 and the condition whenever they next open the cornerstone, showing how much the statue has eroded or otherwise changed over time. In that sense, he said, the 3D images will provide useful information to conservationists of the future. This week, the 1815 cornerstone is scheduled to be placed back in its original underground position with the new objects inside, so work can continue on the restoration. Humphries said the cornerstone might be reopened in 100 years or 1,000 years. “It’s just when the next guy finds it and wants to dig it up again. It was a lot of work.” Humphries added that conservators advised his group not to include newspapers this time because most newspapers printed today are “so acidic” that they might damage other objects stored with them. The monument will reopen during a daylong “Monumental Bicentennial Celebration” that will include a Naturalization Ceremony, a formal ribbon cutting, and a “family friendly” fair. Admission is free. As exhibited Sunday, the mini-statue of Washington is reminiscent of similarly sized replicas of the Statue of Liberty that are sold to tourists in New York City. Conservancy representatives say their organization may eventually fabricate and sell copies of the cornerstone objects as souvenirs, to raise funds for additional phases of restoration work around Mount Vernon Place.
Placeholder Alt Text

Synthesis 3D prints a rocking chair

Durotaxis rocker features gradient mesh informed by function, ergonomics, and aesthetics.

For Synthesis Design + Architecture founding principal Alvin Huang, there is a lot to love about 3D printing. But he does not always like how the technology is applied. "I see it all the time—a lot of students just 3D print everything," said Huang, who also teaches at the USC School of Architecture. "You see things that could have been done better, faster, or cleaner by hand. I find it a very troublesome predicament we're in, we're letting the tool dictate." When Stratasys contacted Synthesis about designing a piece for their Objet500 Connex3 printer, the architects decided to turn the relationship between human and machine on its head. Instead of asking how they could implement a preconceived design using the Objet printer, they challenged themselves to create something that could only be manufactured using this particular tool. Durotaxis Chair, a prototype of which debuted at the ACADIA 2014 conference, showcases Objet's multi-material 3D printing capabilities with a gradient mesh that visually communicates the rocker's function and ergonomics. Though Synthesis designed the Durotaxis Chair almost entirely in the digital realm, said Huang, "we see the computer very much as an intuitive tool, the same way previous generations thought of the pencil. We try to find a happy medium between the scientific aspect, and the intuitive manipulation of that science." The architects bounced among multiple software programs including Rhino, Grasshopper, Weaverbird, ZBrush, and Maya to craft a form that operates in two positions: upright, as a traditional rocking chair, and horizontally, as a lounger. The chair's structure comprises an interwoven mesh of two materials, one rigid, opaque, and cyan in color, the other flexible, translucent, and white. While the resultant gradients reflect both the physics and ergonomics of the chair, they also deliver an intended aesthetic effect, creating a moiré pattern that encourages the observer to move around the chair. "It wasn't the case of the code creating the form," explained Huang. "We very clearly sculpted it for visual and ergonomic properties."
  • Fabricator Stratasys
  • Designers Synthesis Design + Architecture
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material Objet VeroCyan Digital Material, Objet VeroWhite Digital Material
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, Weaverbird, ZBrush, Maya, 3D printing
Stratasys manufactured the half-scale prototype at their headquarters in Israel. Unlike a typical 3D printer, which has one head with one nozzle, the Object contains two heads with 96 nozzles each. Using proprietary substances the company calls "digital material," said Huang, "you can print a matrix of gradients between those two heads. In our case, we were able to create gradients not just of color, but also stiffness and transparency." Synthesis remained in constant touch with the Stratasys team throughout fabrication, fine-tuning the design as problems arose. "It was also an experimental process for them," said Huang. "Ultimately, through a lot of back and forth, we were able to arrive at something they were able to print." Synthesis is now tweaking their design for a full-scale version of Durotaxis Chair. The principal challenge they encountered while fabricating the prototype, explained Huang, was an excess of support mesh. "It's still a big manual process. You have to remove all of the support material." The updated design will take advantage of the team's finding that, by printing vertically up to a certain angle, they can eliminate the need for support mesh. "We're trying to take it a step further," said Huang. "How do we expedite the process, and refine the geometry of the lattice so that you're changing direction before the material starts to droop? We're trying to do something where, in a sense, we're growing the chair." Despite his discontent with the way some young practitioners approach 3D printing, Huang thinks that the technology holds great promise, especially in the world of architecture. He points to some of his contemporaries, like fellow Angeleno and architect/jewelry designer Jenny Wu, who is taking 3D printing in exciting new directions. "When you think about architecture and design, most of what we do is the assembly of products, and the more bespoke you can make them, the better," said Huang. "I look at 3D printing as a shift from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing. Hopefully someday we can produce bespoke items for the same impact as mass-produced items—that is the theoretical holy grail."
Placeholder Alt Text

Video> Optical illusions come to life in Stanford designer’s mesmerizing 3D-printed zoetrope sculptures

Nature’s algorithms reign supreme in a series of revolving 3D printed sculptures by designer-cum-artist John Edmark, also an adjunct lecturer at Stanford's Department of Art & Art History. The sculpture sits on a rotating base and animates when it is placed under a strobe light or filmed using a camera with extremely slow shutter speeds. Consisting of petals and cube-like geometric angles arranged at unique distances from the top-center, the sculpture creates an optical illusion whereby the 3D projections appear to seethe from the top down and back again. Herein lies the magic formula: what the viewer is actually seeing is each petal at graduated distances from the top center. The placement of each petal is in accordance with Fibonacci theory, a number pattern inherent in nature which determines everything from phyllotaxy (leaf order) to the whorls in our fingerprint. “The placement of the appendages is determined by the same method nature uses in pinecones and sunflowers,” Edmark is quoted as saying. A third variation of the sculpture resembles stacked hollow donuts perforated with holes, which moves like a coiling snake. In the video, the sculptures are spinning at 550 rotations per minute while being rotated at 24 frames per second with a shutter speed of 1/4000 per second. The rotation speed is synchronized with the camera’s frame rate so that one frame of video is captured every time the sculpture turns 137.5 degrees—the “golden angle” in science based on the golden ratio that leads to the formation of spiral patterns. Animorphs-3D-printed-illusions-on-Instructables_dezeen_468_2 Edmark created the designs as part of his role as artist in residence for Instructables, a popular DIY network that was bought by software giant Autodesk in 2011. The artist rendered the computer models using Rhino software with a scripting program called Python. They were then exported as files and printed using a Z-printer 450. The Blooming Zoetrope Sculptures can be ordered ready-made from 3D printing site Shapeways, but for science geeks or enterprising DIYers, Edmark has offered to share the files to print at home with those who contact him through Instructables.
Placeholder Alt Text

3D printed pavilion in Ohio recreates the sun’s path at night

A luminous, arched pavilion in Ohio aims to highlight the potential of 3D fabrication techniques, and to so it's mounting a Promethean stunt. The so-called Solar Bytes Pavilion grabs sunlight during the day and radiates light when it gets dark, recreating the day's solar conditions minute-by-minute throughout the night. Brian Peters helped found DesignLabWorkshop in 2008, eventually settling in Kent, Ohio. Their latest project is the Solar Bytes Pavilion, a continuum of 94 unique modules (“bytes”) 3D printed in ceramic bricks covered with white, translucent plastic. Peters and his team then put solar-powered LEDs in each of the bytes, snapping them together in a self-supporting, arched pavilion just big enough for a few people to huddle inside. got some detail on the fabrication process:
...he used a 6-axis robot arm located at the Robotic Fabrication Lab at Kent State. A hand welding extruder, called the Mini CS, was attached to the robot arm to serve as the 3D printhead, and it extrudes plastic material in a sort of FDM-style process. The technology, provided by Hapco Inc. and called BAK/DOHLE, is employed by universities, government agencies, and concerns like the University of Michigan, Oak Ridge Laboratory, the US Department of Energy, and the University of Tennessee.
The pavilion debuted at Cleveland's Ingenuity Fest.
Placeholder Alt Text

Custom Fit: 4D Printed Dress Goes to MoMA

Congratulations to Nervous System, whose Kinematics Dress was just acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (a prescient, pre-emptive move that might keep the curators of the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute awake for nights to come). While the physical product is certainly a head-turner, it's the underlying technology that's the true wonder—and maybe of greater interest and implication to architects. In order to fit into a 3D printer, the nascent dress design had to be reduced in size. Factoring in idealized, actual, and intuitive aspects of material and performance, a computational folding program optimally shrunk the garment by 85 percent by folding it in half only twice. Comprising 2,279 unique triangular panels linked by 3,316 hinges, the nylon dress was printed as a single piece over the course of 48 hours at the Shapeways facility in New York City. It looks fabulous, but how does it feel? Nervous Systems' creative director, Jessica Rosenkranz, answers, "I would not compare the dress to any other fabrics. It's really quite different. Perhaps I would describe it as a kind of mechanical lace. While each part is rigid and has a textured feel, together they flow and fold. Fabrics often make a rustling sound, but our garment sounds more like thousands of tiny plastic wind chimes." A video documenting the fabrication of the dress was filmed at Shapeways.
Placeholder Alt Text

LACE by Jenny Wu, Prêt-à-3D Print

Oyler Wu Collaborative partner delves into jewelry design.

Oyler Wu Collaborative partner Jenny Wu had long dreamed of designing jewelry—just as soon as she found some spare time. Last fall, she realized that she might wait forever for a break from her busy architecture practice. "At some point I decided, 'I'll design some pieces, and the easiest way to make it happen is just to 3D print them,'" said Wu. She fabricated a couple of necklaces, and brought them on her just-for-fun trip to Art Basel Miami Beach 2013. "I wore my pieces around, and I was stunned by the response I was getting," she recalled. "People kept coming up to me, literally every five seconds. After a while, I thought, 'Maybe I do have something that's unique, especially for a design crowd.'" Back home in Los Angeles, Wu began prototyping necklaces and earrings for retail sale under the name LACE. Though she originally planned to use 3D printing only to mock up her designs, she decided carry the technology through to her finished pieces. "I'd like to do more high-end, low-run pieces," said Wu. "Especially for jewelry, when you're making custom pieces, people are willing to wait for them. It just made sense from the production point of view for me to use 3D printing." Wu's next step was to design additional pieces and test materials. Typical 3D printing materials like nylon "might look great, but they're extremely fragile and brittle," explained Wu. "Especially resins—they don't have the right tensile quality. Like if you're wearing a necklace and someone hugs you too hard [it can break]." Wu's current line includes necklaces in an elastic nylon material. She also offers earrings and rings in polished nylon that takes advantage of selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, plus a premium cast-metal series that utilizes 3D-printed wax molds.
  • Fabricator Jenny Wu
  • Designers Jenny Wu
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion ongoing
  • Material elastic nylon, polished nylon, polished sterling silver
  • Process 3D modeling, 3D printing, SLS, casting
Wu, who is collaborating with Stratasys on certain designs in addition to partnering with other professional 3D printing firms, aspires to use the technology as more than just a production expedient. "Pieces that push the technology are important," she said. "There's so much detail you can introduce in 3D printing, even in metals. You can create this nice edge detail—it's something I notice, but it isn't necessarily something you'd see in jewelry." Nor is the speed with which she can materialize a concept typical by jewelry-world standards. "I can make these chain-link pieces as part of one print, because the support material is something like powder that you can basically wash off," explained Wu. "That's what's amazing, where in the traditional jewelry-making process you'd have to make individual links that you'd eventually assemble." In a neat closing of the circle, LACE returned to Art Basel Miami Beach last week, this time in a pop-up shop at Aqua Art Miami. One year into her experiment, Wu is comfortable having one foot each in the worlds of jewelry and architecture. "If you look at the jewelry pieces, you see how they could relate to our architecture: our emphasis on line-based geometries, the interesting bundling and layering of material, and creating something very spatial, not graphic and flat," she said. "I don't see a separation between my architecture and my jewelry." As for the day-to-day reality of spearheading two creative businesses at once, that seems to be working, too. LACE is in Wu's name, but "the work's happening simultaneously with all the same people," she said. "While it may have its own identity, it's very much part of our office in terms of production. We like how it keeps things fun."
Placeholder Alt Text

Swedish professor creates a playable 3-D printed saxophone

As the world of 3-D printing advances, it's becoming possible to create more and more complex shapes and systems. Now, the technology is making waves in the music world. Olaf Diegel, a professor of product development at Lund University in Sweden, recently produced the first ever 3-D printed saxophone. The saxophone isn't Diegel's first foray into musical printing—the professor has created other instruments including a guitar and drums—but this prototype appears to be the most ambitious yet. He believes the technology has great potential in creating customized instruments tailored to the individual needs or aesthetic choices of each musician. The prototype of Diegel's 3D printed alto saxophone, which he can actually play, took about six months to create using 3D modeling software. "I first designed the saxophone in 3D CAD software. Then, I sent the model to the 3D printer which sliced it up into very thin slices, and then 'printed' each slice, one on top of the other until the whole sax was printed," Diegel said in a statement. "In this case, it 'printed' each slice by spreading a very thin layer of plastic powder, and a laser then scanned the shape of the sax for that layer. After that, it spread another layer of powder on top of the first, and repeated the process again and again until the whole sax was done." The 3D printed saxophone is comprised of 41 different parts (not including springs and screws) and is a quarter the weight of a traditional metal sax. He admitted that a few notes on the instrument are out of tune due to air leaking between the parts, a flaw he is aiming to correct in future versions. For instance, the prototype was designed essentially as a clone of a traditional sax, but Diegel said a future version designed specifically for the digital manufacturing process might look different. "The next version will be even better looking, as 3D printing allows me to create shapes that would be impossible to make with traditional manufacturing," he said. A new version is expected later this year.
Placeholder Alt Text

IIT Students Explore the Potential of Carbon Fiber

Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.

Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. "We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture," said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. "There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it." Peluso’s studio began with an internal competition. Because the spring semester course followed a class dedicated to the exploration of various composite materials, many of the students were already familiar with the pros and cons of carbon fiber. "Toward the end of the first semester we started working with carbon fiber, and it wasn’t the greatest result," said Peluso. "But we knew we had to keep working with it. That played a big part in the selection of the design for the second semester." The students judged the submissions on constructability as well as aesthetics, he explained. "It was interesting to see the students as the pavilions were being presented, see their minds turning on: ‘Okay, this one is feasible—this is one we can actually build.’ Sometimes the design was a little better, but the overall project seemed less possible within the time frame." The winning design is based on a bivalve shell structure. The student who came up with the idea used parametric design software to explore tessellations of the single shell form. "What I was pushing them to do in the first semester was large surfaces that weren’t repetitive," said Peluso. "In the second semester, it was like they intuitively knew there had to be repetition of the unit." As a group, the class further developed the design in Rhino and Grasshopper. But while the students used parametric software to generate the shell pattern, in general FIBERwave PAVILION was "less about designing in the computer," said Peluso. "Most of it was fabrication based." The studio was hands-on from the beginning, when students were asked to submit a small-scale carbon fiber with their competition entries. They went back to Rhino to make the molds. "We had to make six molds," explained Peluso. "Even though it was one identical shell unit we had to produce 86 of these shells. When you make a composite unit, if you have one mold you can only make one shell per day." In the end, the students fabricated a total of 90 shells (including several extra to make up for any defects) over the course of about four weeks.
  • Fabricator IIT School of Architecture CARBON_Lab
  • Designers IIT School of Architecture CARBON_Lab
  • Location Chicago
  • Date of Completion Spring 2014
  • Material carbon fiber, epoxy from West System Epoxy
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, 3D printing, cutting, molding, curing, painting, bolting
"The actual assembly was pretty quick, the pavilion itself went together in less than a day," said Peluso. Laterally, bolts through CNC-drilled holes connect the shells at two points on either side. The overlapping rows of shells are secured vertically through bolted pin connections. The installation remained on the IIT campus for one month, after which the students disassembled it in just 25 minutes. The Chicago Composite Initiative, which provided crucial technical guidance during the project, has since erected FIBERwave PAVILION in one of its classrooms. The fundraising component of the project was as important as its design and fabrication elements. Peluso initially hoped that the carbon fiber industry would donate materials, but "we didn’t have as much luck as we anticipated because we hadn’t done anything before that would warrant their interest," he said. "That’s one of the goals of the pavilion itself, to create an awareness in architecture that this could be a great material to use." Peluso’s course did have help from West System Epoxy, which provided the curing resin at a discount. To fill the funding gap, the students ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,937 from a $6,500 goal. They made incentives for the donors, including 3D-printed necklaces and earrings. "I don’t think we realized how much work was going to go into that," said Peluso. To raise additional funds, the class held bake sales on campus. For Peluso, the process of designing and building FIBERwave PAVILION proved as valuable as the finished product. "The way the students collaborated made the project a success," he said. "Sometimes in group projects you get a few drifters, and some really strong ones. But all twelve students really stepped up. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t all come together as a group."
Placeholder Alt Text

Researchers Train Robots to 3D Print Architecture

The future of architecture is upon us, and thanks to a team of researchers led by Sasa Jokic and Petr Novikov, construction workers may soon be made obsolete. A team from the Institute for Advanced Architecture Catalonia (IAAC) is currently tackling the challenge of making “mini-builders”: drones that are capable of applying 3-D printing at a large, architectural scale. While the minibuilder robots are original inventions, the idea of using robots to 3-D print architecture is not a new one, and many, including a team from Gensler Los Angeles, are exploring the usefulness of the technology. The idea dates back to 2008 when Caterpillar began funding Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California. These mini-builders are unique because of their relatively tiny size, which makes them easier to mass produce and much more convenient to haul places. Currently there are three robots that have been unveiled to the public by the IAAC team: the foundation robot, the grip robot, and the vacuum robot. The foundation robot is equipped with tracks and a sensor to keep it in position and lays down the base of the structure for the other two robots to work on. Next, the grip robot actually attaches itself to the structure via rollers and is responsible for raising the printed structure vertically. Finally the vacuum robot utilizes suction cups to cling onto the surface of the structure and reinforces the walls. The robots are currently working with concrete as a building material.