I’m willing to bet a pile of spalling brick that most of you don’t live in a house or work in a building that’s been printed by a 3D printer. No? It seems ludicrous that a large structure could be printed layer-by-layer with a rock-like resin – floor, walls, ceiling, tubes, stairs and roof. But then again, were thinking about conventional structures built by hand with wood, sweat and mortar.
Enrico Dini, founder of D_shape and creator of the largest 3D printer in the known universe, doesn’t think the idea of printing a house is ludicrous at all.
In fact, there’s very little he sees as impossible. Printing massive structures, skyscrapers, cathedrals and stadiums are not even out of the range of possibility. He’s set to redefine the style of architecture and strip the limits of what constrains architectural design. Here’s what drives his passion, what challenges his vision and what you will see, and possibly live within, in the future.
Interview with Enrico Dini
There is so much to do on the front of chemical, process, post process and assembling in D_Shape technology… I could talk for hours and hours. Since I put my foot upon the desert of a new technology five years ago, I never stopped trying to define or explore the boundaries of an invention that has endless possibilities. Today, I defined 12 different product categories, each with architectural applications – artistic, archaeology, civil, industrial, interiors, machines, marine, recreation, religious, playgrounds, urban, and compact living. Each of those in themselves may require the work of many people.
You have a passion for Gaudi’s architecture, what inspires you the most?
Surely the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló, but my aim is to complete Colònia Güell and am currently working on completing it.
What are the challenges you face with printing massive structures?
Challenges in order time:
- Print Table of Trabecular series, Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan (April 2010)
- Deliver Radiolaria full scale to Pontedera Municipality (September 2010)
- Print the Sardinia Villa
- Print free-form facades full of undercuts
- Approach the 12 product categories by 2015 ( naval, facades, civil, social housing)
- Print structures on the Moon by 2020 – project award by European Space Agency
- Print Colònia Güell Cathedral by 2037
- 2037, maybe die in Barcelona ( I had this dream 25 years ago.)
What 3D CAD software is used to develop the 3D concepts you’re currently exploring?
Any CAD modeling software available on the market can be used: Rhino, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, 3D studio… Its just a matter of exporting the file in an .STL (Stereolithography) format and taking care of all engineering/assembling aspects.
Are there ways in which 3D printing makes you view architectural design differently?
Absolutely. Think of this. I’m manufacturing my printer using massive Water Jet Technology. Executive Design is always ‘son’ of the available technology. Executive Design is also ‘father’ of development on new technologies sorted by people like me. I knew that architects and designers had marvelous 3D CAD software. I consider myself an architect as well, so I’m simply developing an instrument for them to use to create their designs. Now, using the printer and knowing its limits, i.e. printing resolution, strength of the material, etc. are different. My favorite designer Architect Andrea Morgante of Shiro Studio (London) is driving the design of the Radiolaria and other structures according to State of the Art technology developed by D-SHAPE.
Driven by CAD software installed on a dust-covered computer terminal, the armature moves just millimetres above a pile of sand, expressing a magnesium-based solution from hundreds of nozzles on its lower side. It makes four passes. The layer dries and Enrico Dini recalibrates the armature frame. The system deposits the sand and then inorganic binding ink. The exercise is repeated. The millennia-long process of laying down sedimentary rock is accelerated into a day. A building emerges. – Blueprint Magazine
The process takes place in a non-stop work session, starting from the foundation level and ending on the top of the roof, including stairs, external and internal partition walls, concave and convex surfaces, bas-reliefs, columns, statues, wiring, cabling and piping cavities. During the printing of each section a ‘structural ink’ is deposited by the printer’s nozzles on the sand. The solidification process takes 24 hours to complete. The printing starts from the bottom of the construction and rises up in sections of 5-10mm. – D_Shape
The following video, from Vite Reali, gives you a better idea of how fast the printer is and the scale of the objects being printed. Enrico also works with a 3D model in Rhino prior to sending it to the printer. (It will help to have a good understanding of Italian… and Italian fashion.)
Printer Capacity: 20 ft x 20 ft x 3 ft (6m x 6m x 1m)
Printer tolerance: .20 in – .40 in (5 -10 mm)
Annual capacity: 26910 ft² (2500 m²)
Cost: 30%-50% lower than conventional construction