Thinking big is apparently no challenge for architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger.
They’ve created a 3D printed room using algorithms to design its intricate cathedral-like interior. Assembled from 64 massive separate sandstone parts printed out with a huge 3D printer, the room contains 260 million surfaces printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter. The 11-ton room took a month to print but only a day to assemble. The fabrication methods the duo used to print the room will, they believe, open the door to printing architecture, freeing architects to create new unimaginable buildings and also restore old ones.
Hansmeyer and Dillenburger, both computational architects at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology‘s architecture department in Zurich, wrote algorithms to completely design the complex geometry of the 16 square meter (170 sq ft) room . Dubbed “Digital Grotesque,” their modern take on a medieval grotto was made with a new type of 3D printed sandstone, infused with a hardening resin to increase its structural stability. To print out the sandstone parts that made the room, the duo used a massive Voxeljet 3D printer, about the size of a large room. “It can print a single piece that weighs 12 tons, yet at a layer resolution of 0.13 millimeters,” says Hansmeyer. “This combination of scale and resolution seemed unreal to us at first.”
The scale of machines, high material costs and the structural weakness of 3D printed materials is the reason why architects have up to now used 3D printing technology only to make prototypes or small scale models. The sand-printing technology the duo employed finds use in industrial applications, but with the addition of their innovative methods, it can now be used to create huge prefabricated sandstone bricks strong enough to build with.
“The limiting factor for the project was no longer the size of the printable space, but instead the logistics of how to transport and assemble such large elements,” Hansmeyer tells us. “Otherwise, it would have been impossible to build the entire project out of just 64 printed pieces.”
The weight of each of the 64 printed elements was reduced by making them hollow and using an internal structural grid to give them stability. Additional constructional details to help the bricks align with each other and to make the room to solid as a whole were directly integrated into the bricks and printed too.”We added truncated cones to allow for stable stacking and ensure alignment, and we created horizontal shafts through the elements to facilitate transport,” Hansmeyer told us. “There was no need to use a different material or a different system.”
“No cost for ornament. No cost for individuality…”
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