Most students will work with a plastic when making things with a 3D printer, but that is only scratching the surface of materials that can be used in these machines. This book takes a look at the different materials that can be used by 3D printers, what those materials can make, and the advantages and disadvantages for each.
New Zealand’s housing crisis has left a major shortage of housing across the country and it needs a fast, affordable and sustainable solution.
Technology is rapidly advancing in leaps and bounds, and the progress made in 3D printing is no different.
Massey University engineering and advanced technology lecturer Frazer Noble told Duncan Garner there are international companies which have been able to ‘print’ multi-storey houses.
“If you think about it, you could 3D print a single-person abode in 24 hours for less than it would cost to build a house for humanity,” he said.
“We’re making a house in 24 hours for 10,000.”
Digital technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D printing could help reduce waste during a design and construction project, suggests a new report from the British Council for Offices (BCO). “Virtual Reality and 3D Printing – Reducing waste in office construction through new technology” reviews the existing applications of these technologies and their ability to mitigate waste during the design and construction process. The report, which is the result of a collaboration between an international team of multi-disciplinary experts also identifies opportunities and challenges for the technology in the future. According to the authors, if the UK construction industry is to come anywhere close to achieving the ambitious targets set out in the Government’s 2025 construction strategy there needs to be a sensible re-think about how we design, procure and construct buildings in the future; and two technologies that are now reaching maturity and could help are VR and 3D printing.
The Government has earmarked digital technologies as a key driver for improvement and will rely on these to enact change.. The broad range of applications of VR and the unique information that it brings suggests that it will become a valuable tool for the industry. What impact the technology will have specifically on waste reduction, however, is harder to quantify. There are two areas where material and cost savings are expected to be made in office construction, these are leasing and mock-ups.
The use of VR for leasing will enable prospective tenants to ‘stand’ on a floor plate (shell and core) and experience a completed floor virtually, instead of fitting out chosen floors with raised floors and suspended ceilings to help a tenant see more clearly what the finished product will look like. The ability to visualise how office space will look and feel virtually before it is completed physically will likely negate the need for a Category A fit-out. A virtual fit-out would not only save on labour and material costs but could also be used as a marketing tool to demonstrate the flexibility and potential of a space.
VR could also be useful for construction mock-ups. Advances in 3D modelling and visualisation tools now enable the simulation of physically accurate materials and lighting conditions. This means VR could be used to accurately simulate parts of a construction mock-up. Providing a VR model could achieve a significant level of realism, stakeholders could use a virtual mock-up to make an initial assessment about aesthetics and qualitative aspects before anything is built. While it is unlikely that the virtual mock-up will entirely replace the need for a physical mock-up, it could shorten the process, saving further time, labour and material costs.
The findings of this report, which have been guided by a series of interviews and workshops with key developers, designers, contractors and occupiers within the office sector can be accessed here.
I’ve always loved the look of brick, whether on buildings or streets. There are still a few brick roads in my area, which I love – the color, the feel, the old-fashioned appearance. Brick is one of the oldest construction materials still being used today, although these days it’s used less for actual construction and more as exterior façade in buildings. Though it might be a classic material, it’s a labor-intensive one to create, and one that requires quite a bit of energy. A single brick takes up to three days to fire, and requires a temperature of over 1000°C – not the most energy-efficient process.
Brick isn’t a material that we’ve really seen much in 3D printing yet, but a new startup is developing a 3D printer that could revolutionize the way brick façades are created. Last year we wrote about Lab3D, a Dutch company working on completely new methods of 3D printing building structures. Now they’ve created a spinoff startup entirely dedicated to the development of a printer unlike any other. Meet Pixelstone – if all goes according to plan, you’re likely to be hearing a lot about it within a couple years’ time.
Pixelstone is a printer specifically designed to print brick façades. It actually prints “pixels,” or small brick cubes which are loaded into cartridges in single colors or mixes. Those cubes are pumped into a mixer, which remixes them according to color, then extrudes them through a hose in a digitally predesigned pattern. As the printer extrudes the bricks, it also bonds them together into a sheet of solid brick that can then be used as a façade.
“Besides sleek facades, Pixelstones enables rich and complicated facades,” the company states. “Printed with different colors, patterns, images, reliefs, ornaments, window frames; everything you can imagine. The architect gets total control of every pixel in a facade.”
The advantages are many: because of the small size of the bricks, they need very little firing; the creation of a pixelstone takes one to two hours as opposed to the several-day process a standard-sized brick requires. Less firing equals less energy – 90% less energy, as a matter of fact, according to Pixelstone. Printing them is a speedy process as well – the current prototype can print at a speed of 0.5 m2/hr, and when the final version is developed, the company expects that it will be capable of printing 5 m2/hr.
“New technology requires a new design tool,” the company continues. “Pixelstone developed a simple application that enables the architect to design with Pixelstones. Any kind of image or facade design can be loaded in the software and converted in the cubic bricks. Stone colors and the ratio between the colors can be tweaked in order to have total control of the end result.”
The Pixelstone printer is scheduled to hit the market one and a half to two years from now. A patent is pending, and the company already has ambitious visions for the future – while they’re starting with brick façades, the ultimate goal is to be able to print entire structures with Pixelstone technology.
In the meantime, Pixelstone is looking for partners and/or investors. Small pilot projects are available; if you’re interested in getting on board, you can contact the company at firstname.lastname@example.org or +31(0)107142456. Below, you can see the prototype in action: