In a corner of last weekend’s 3D Printshow in London lay an eery blue lit shape guarded by security. The first question on most people’s lips was ‘what is it?’. It reminded me of a prehistoric shark you see in museums but it turned out to something quite revolutionary.
The concept was a 3D printed ‘house’ and was possibly the largest 3D printed model at the show. It was the result of a year’s worth of research by London based Softkill Design – a team of architects and researchers. The conceptual house is unlike anything seen before. Rather than brick walls, the exterior of the house is a fibrous interveaving web, which is designed according to algorithms similar to bone growth.
Speaking to Dezeen, Softkill Design's Aaron Silver said “We created an algorithm that mimics bone growth so really we are depositing material only where it is most necessary and most structurally efficient. Also, as we are designers and architects, it is not a purely structural object, we also tried to design with it and create our own forms”.
The miniature model is an example of what could be built for real. 31 parts could be printed by the largest 3D printer in the world available now, and assembled on site.
Speaking to 3D Focus, Gilles Retsin said “We write algorithms to design we generated a software programme that generates a very light weight, high resolution structure that is extremely strong but at the same time does not waste material”
The organic alien-like structure was created by using a technology called Selective laser sintering which is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser (for example, a carbon dioxide laser) to fuse small particles of plastic, metal (direct metal laser sintering), ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired 3D shape.
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The house started as a bed of powder and the laser only melted the powder it needed which has the advantage that support structures are not required. This technique can print extremely intricate and complex structures with very little waste.
What is particularly interesting about the concept is that there is a random element to the design. Normally, designers are in 100% control of the planned aesthetics of a building, but in this case, a computer will form the shape of the structure.
“It’s more or less playing with physics" said Retsin. "As a designer you are playing with the algorithm. You have about 50% freedom because you still need things like floors and stairs in the building but the algorithm guides the material around them. Now we have 3D printing technology, as designers we no longer have to work with bricks. We are able to work with much finer material – almost like the little dust pieces of the bricks. We rewrite algorithms that organises material at a very high resolution. It’s the same thing as the shift from analogue photography to digital photography and all of a sudden you can make a ten thousand pixel picture. We can now design high resolution buildings with tens of thousands of microns. This whole print [the conceptual house] is made from 0.7mm thick tubes. Its design on the next level of detail."
Although it doesn’t look like it, it would be liveable. The structure is waterproof and, although they can not be seen on the model, the windows would be translucent membranes. And if you are wondering where the curtains are, they even have a solution for that, as explained in the video below… For a slightly more ‘conventional’ way of 3D printing a house check out this video.
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