Remember way back in 2013, when everyone was going crazy about 3D printing, buying those boxy little printers to make custom dog tags, phone cases and trays for their belongings? Yeah, crazy times. It’s all changed now in 2015 with 3D printing moving outside the box and FabClay was one of the first showing what could be done. Like the trashy furniture of Dirk Vander Kooij, FabClay produced layer upon layer of material in the space surrounding a Industrial robot arm. It’s limited in complexity of build, but what it inspires and the product it produced is simply beautiful.

Pile it On

FabClay is a project out the Digital Tectonics course of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) by grad students Saša Jokić, Starsk Lara and Nasim Fashami. The project goal and the overarching focus of the Digital Tectonics course was to ‘provide material processes for building with additive manufacturing techniques on site, using highly available/local materials’. The material in this case is a concoction of clay, water and plastic carefully mixed (read: thrown in a wastebasket and churned with a hammer drill) then manually added to a pump that connects to either a Shopbot CNC or Kuka Industrial Robot arm.

The main research question of this project addresses is what innovative techniques of design, construction and materials could prospectively be developed and eventually applied to architectural system. According to the history of clay constructions that has been recorded through the history of architectural building, there is not only a plenty of knowledge but also an intelligence of professional treatment with environment in terms of material usage in appropriate way. Digital tectonics focuses on material deposition techniques. The additive fabrication is about adding material by using a device that can produce digital shapes and create the shapes which can’t been made by humans hands.

Clay is certainly a readily available resource and the whole idea of the project isn’t too far off from what’s been done for ages with concrete mixer trucks pulling up to construction sites. Using plasticized clay and the FDM process present challenges in transport, weather conditions and complexity of build, but there are certainly a lot of architectural clay products, or even structures, where this is applicable.

There’s a great overview of the project on the FabClay publications section. They also have a video of the process that goes into mixing the material, testing and creating some of the pieces you’ll see below using a Shopbot CNC. The vision of future on-site construction drones in the second video (at 2:30) is absolutely brilliant.


















Images: FabClay & IAAC


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.