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Industrial 3D Printing

I was just thinking about innovative architectural materials. What is the most innovative architectural material that has come about over the last several years? Although it is not an architectural material, what came to mind was the 3D printer. The first instance in which I heard a news report about 3D printers, a 6-week old baby in Youngstown, Ohio had an episode where he stopped breathing and turned blue. The baby was admitted to a local hospital where it was decided he must have choked on food or drink, and this is what caused him to stop breathing. He was released to go home with his parents. Two weeks later, it happened again… and again… and again. They were doing CPR on this poor baby every, single day. They did not think the baby would survive, but in what doctors called a “hail Mary pass”, they decided to try a revolutionary procedure. They engineered a stint for the baby’s lungs, and on a 3D printer, using polycaprolactone, or PCL, they printed the device that saved his life. The device will take three years to degrade, giving the baby’s lungs more than enough time to form properly.

Today, there are companies who are designing and printing actual buildings using giant versions of the printer used by these doctors. Did you ever think we would be able to PRINT a BUILDING? China’s WinSun Decoration Design Engineering recently used a 3D printer standing 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide, and 132 feet long to print ten buildings in one day. These building, to be used as one-room houses, are around 650 square feet and cost only around $4,800 to make. The material used to print the parts of these houses, to be assembled on site, was made from recycled building materials from razed buildings and concrete. The only problem with this, currently, is that you cannot print a wall bigger than the printer, itself. WinSun is working on a “minibuilder” robot that would be able to print on-site, reducing the need for transporting the large walls from printer to site.

WinSun Minibuilder

He’s a handsome little fella, isn’t he?

How do you think this technology will affect how we approach architectural design? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!