by Jerry Elengical, Samta NadeemSep 23, 2021
3D printing manufacturing and technology has come a long way since its conception less than a decade ago. Having to overcome teething issues such as scalability and durability, the 3D printing industry has since grown and is now able to provide solutions and materials that address the growing ecological and sustainable sensibilities within the design community. If one were to reflect back at the progress this year alone, we would have to analyse it through a variety of lenses, including scale and material. From modular unreinforced concrete bridges to desk stationery, while using filaments of clay and castor oil, the ingredients and elements of 3D printing are diverse and continue to expand. As we come to the end of another year, STIR looks back at eight projects and designs that pushed the envelope.
3D Printed Architecture
Educational outreach organisation, Thinking Huts, along with Studio Mortazavi employed a hybrid design approach for a school in Madagascar. The project consists of a series of pod-like enclosures that have 3D printed walls alongside locally sourced material. In addition to using a 3D printed concrete aggregate made from recycled material as its filament, the printed walls are honeycombed and hollow, which means the pods use significantly less concrete in their construction. The project is constructed with the assistance of Finland-based 3D technology company, Hyperion Robotics.
A portmanteau of its two key components, technology and clay, TECLA is the first eco-sustainable 3D printed home that has completed its model unit. Constructed using raw earth, the project was developed through detailed research at the School of Sustainability by Mario Cucinella. Incorporating the possibility to include further improvements and inventions in the future, the project uses proprietary software developed by WASP. The TECLA WASP Economy Starter Kit comprises multiple 3D printers and a complex system of picking, mixing and pumping materials to imitate the construction process of TECLA 3D printed homes.
The Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 saw an array of design and architectural interventions. One such outdoor installation was the product of a collaborative effort between the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich, Zaha Hadid Architects Computation and Design Group, and incremental3D. Titled Striatus, the installation is an unreinforced footbridge built from 3D printed concrete blocks assembled in a bifurcating, organic form without the use of any mortar. Blending computational design with tried and tested building methods, the structural bridge design can be installed, dismantled, repurposed and reassembled repeatedly. This article traces the journey of 3D printed bridge engineering.
3D Printed Products
Vienna-based designer, Philipp Aduatz, relies on his knowledge and interest in material technology to create limited edition functional objects that are equal parts sculptural and practical. Aduatz’s process grows from an understanding of both traditional craft and contemporary fabrication techniques. Working with 3D printing, 3D laser scanning, CNC milling, and Rapid Prototyping, Aduatz looks at each iteration of his work as a unique experiment that studies the behaviour of different materials. This year he launched the 3D Printed Gradient Furniture Collection, in collaboration with Incremental3D, which is made of 3D printed concrete. Featuring an ombre effect, an outcome of incremental3D’s current exploration with dyeing concrete, the process involves the addition of the dye during the printing process directly into the nozzle, allowing the application of localised colour.
Dutch architects Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki designed a limited-edition collection of beach furniture titled The Elements. Manufactured through the means of robotic 3D printing and using marine plastic waste as the raw material, this makes a statement about the volume of marine waste currently floating in the ocean. Comprising a fitting room, a footpath, and a sunbed, the collection touches upon all the ‘elements’ of beach furniture. The soft sculptural forms and upcycled design uses digital fabrication and material resourcing to create visual and ergonomic comfort. Originally designed for Coca-Cola in Greece, the collection has since been presented at numerous locations and has upcycled over 720 kg of plastic waste.
Mellifera: The Dancing Bee Hives by French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani was part of the Festival Commissions at the London Design Festival 2021. The installation of swirling modules, 3D-printed from fermented sugar, dances along the circular void of Fortnum & Mason’s atrium and is an interesting example of parametric design. The modules present an enticing concept for an alternative structure to house pollinator species that are absolutely vital to natural ecological balances. The digital fabrication led architecture of the installation was influenced by the patterns seen in the balustrades of the store's spiral staircase while developing the installation’s funnel-like modules. While the installation is meant to be viewed as a single object, each module is meant to function as an independent product.
3D Printed Small-scale Products
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma teamed up with popular Portuguese eyewear brand VAVA to create a capsule collection of 3D-printed eyewear, using high-quality polyamide bio-based powder made from castor oil. Based on the principles of traditional Japanese woodworking techniques, the design has joints that are held together by the perfect balance of opposite forces instead of using nails or adhesives. His works co-exist with the natural environment, apply traditional Japanese craft to modern forms, with a focus on organic materials finding their way to eyewear design as well. In this collection, these aspects are reflected by the combination of ultra-lightweight sustainable materials and complex structures, which have resulted in VAVA’s most technologically advanced frames to date.
Bene, a global brand that specialises in the design and furnishing of office accessories and environments, recently collaborated with UK-based Pearson Lloyd and 3D printing firm, Batch.Works, to create desktop items made from discarded food packaging. The collection features pen pots, trays and a stand for mobiles, made using 3D printing from 100 per cent recycled PLA—a non-oil-based corn-starch-derived bioplastic diverted from landfills.