Article by Alex Bimpson
Sunday 25 April 2010
3D Printing is a technology that is only recently beginning to emerge into the public domain, yet already the visionaries are setting their sights on some very big targets.
Essentially, 3D printing is a method through which a solid form is built up via a series of layers sprayed on top of each other, and held together with a resin to create a 3D object. This method allows for huge flexibility in the types of shapes formed, and makes free-flowing organic geometry much simpler to produce.
It is this ability to produce precise organic shapes that caught the eye of architect Andrea Morgante when he came across the machine created by Enrico Dini. Dini's version of the 3D printer is a colossal beast capable of producing ginormous structures made up of 5-10mm layers of sand held together with a binding ink to produce life-sized digital structures.
Formally of Future Systems, Morgante came across Dini when he was showing off his technology to London-based architecture firms. Not only was Morgante excited by the machine, but he found in Dini the perfect partner with whom he could work to produce something new and extraordinary. Morgante's architectural background encompasses more than one example of organic architecture, so he was fully aware of how difficult it is at present to produce the sort of forms that Dini's machine promised.
They are currently working to produce a pavilion for a roundabout in the Italian town of Pontedera to show off the capabilities of the machine. Due to the restraints of the location, the pavilion will be printed in sections and assembled on site, but a 9 metre cubed scale model already demonstrates the potential of the machine to produce solid structures.
Producing similar forms using concrete moulds or milled stone would cost 3 times the price of Dini's sand particle construction. The grains are held together using an inorganic binding material, a technique for which Dini had to fund the research himself after realising nobody was going to offer the investment needed for development.
Since showing off the machine, Dini has been approached by many companies wanting to produce an array of products, including furniture pieces, but Dini's real interest is in developing buildings. He states his ultimate goal as being to 'build on the moon'. Only time will tell whether that dream can become a reality, but in the meantime the exciting prospects held by Dini's machine are certainly something to keep an eye on!