Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Printing 3D Building Components

Normally in this space, we write about design process improvement using 3D physical scale models for better collaboration and communication.  This week, we will touch on some innovative research being done with 3D printing technology at U. Cal – Berkeley.  Prof. Ronald Rael has developed a new process that enables the printing of production-ready building components. Following is his guest blog.
Printing unique, one-of-a-kind building components that are generated quickly and economically to produce large scale -objects, is the current research of Ronald Rael, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and founding partner of Rael San Fratello Architects. This year, he has developed a cement-based polymer and a new process that, for the first time, employs conventional rapid prototyping hardware to produce strong and durable building components that cost far less than conventional rapid prototyping materials—up to 90% less than comparable printing materials. The material can also reach strengths of up to 4,700psi in compression, which is comparable to the strength of concrete. This advancement in material output from digital modeling software ushers in a new era in building materials, and a new synthesis of design and production.

The SeatSlug, a biomorphic interpretation of a bench, demonstrates how this new digital output process generates end-product structural building components directly from 3D software models. The design is inspired by flabellina goddardi, the newest species of sea slugs discovered in California in 2010, and by the infinite tessellations of Japanese karakusa patterns. It is constructed of 230 unique rapid-manufactured components. The sinuous form, subtle translucency and glossy finish engage viewers with a memorable aesthetic experience—a tactile personal encounter with a technological breakthrough.