5 Ways to Use 3D Printing for Your Next Project

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In light of recent natural disasters and an increase in refugee resettlement, the need for fast, affordable, and reliable constructive methods is in high demand. Architecturally speaking, the scenario resembles post-WWII architectural struggles, which led to the movement of modernism and focused on building quickly and on a budget. This desire was accomplished by removing unnecessary adornments and optimizing constructive methods, among other efforts. 

3D printing has the potential to cover each of these needs, bringing with it a new design revolution. While the method is not yet a mainstream means of constructing and demands more development, what has been accomplished through 3D printing reveals multiple applications in the field of architecture which could help ease the use of resources and demand.

3D printing allows for quick completion of a project, which is especially crucial for humanitarian relief and in disaster scenarios. It also maximizes material capabilities by using parametric design to improve structural performance while cutting down on overall material use. The experimental work of ETH Zurich's department of architecture––based on the lightness of gothic structures––proves that by using the right structural bones, a structure can be both strong and light. By using this technique, they managed to develop a concrete slab that cuts down material use significantly, without interfering with its load-bearing capabilities. 

This technique also earns green points by, in some cases, reducing in-situ waste of material and the project's overall carbon print, as some pieces won't need transportation to the site.

3D printing can be used with a wide range of materials to obtain different results for different needs, including the following:

Bioplastic

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5 Ways to Use 3D Printing for Your Next Project

Richard Chai Pop-Up Store, designed by Snarkitekture

Bioplastic 3D printing allows the creation of zero waste structures and its renewable nature makes it a valuable green construction alternative. Through the way it is printed into a one-piece continuous structure, it offers structural stability, allowing complex shapes and structures otherwise difficult to achieve using other techniques. The layer printing involved in bioplastic's 3D assembling allows the material to be placed in crisscrossed patterns at a microscopic level, granting the material an added structural stability.

Concrete

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5 Ways to Use 3D Printing for Your Next Project

Printed Concrete Castle, designed by Rudenko

3D printing allows for the creation of sturdy concrete structures, using complex and efficient shapes by adding voids and fills in strategic places which support stable structures. This technique allows for the use of fewer materials to create light and strong structures. 3D printing can also aid in the construction of concrete structures by the creation of intricate casts, which allow the creation of complex shapes difficult to achieve using traditional methods. These concrete structures can be reinforced like any regular concrete structure.

Wood

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5 Ways to Use 3D Printing for Your Next Project

One Main Office Renovation, designed by Decoi Architects

Wood can be used as a 3D printing material in two ways. One of the methods consists of using chipped wood, ground in very fine particles. This method has only been used to print small objects so far, but with further research, it could develop into a viable building option. The second way involves 3D carving, which can be applied to monolithic pieces of timber or to timber planks. The first method carves the wood, as if it were a sculpture, creating a sturdy one-piece structure. The second method creates pieces which can be assembled afterward with millimetric precision.

Metal

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5 Ways to Use 3D Printing for Your Next Project

Lisbon Train Station, designed by Santiago Calatrava

Arup 3D metal pieces are a great example of what can be accomplished with metal 3D printing. The pieces are made thanks to a 3D printed cast in which the molten metal is poured, then set. This method aims to reduce the weight of materials and cost by using less material, plus it offers a wide range of customizable structural pieces to be used in different projects. By printing, production waste is reduced as well. 

Metal 3D printing at a larger scale would, in the future, allow the design of complex beam structures and other metallic elements, and if done in-situ, could reduce wasted material due to damaged ends or corrosion.

The above materials can be shaped into pre-made design elements in order to complement the project.

Facades

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Italy Pavilion, designed by Nemesi

3D printing allows for the creation of customizable facades to compliment the design of a project. Ranging from screens to modular facade elements, these structures can be made of bioplastic, metal, and wood, depending on the nature of the project and its context. 


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