Animal Printheads, Biomimicry and More: How Nature Will Shape the Built Environment of the Future

© John Becker

Biomimicry is quickly emerging as one of the next architectural frontiers. New manufacturing processes such as 3D printing, coupled with the drive to make buildings more environmentally sustainable, have led to a wave of projects that are derived from natural phenomena or even constructed with biological materials. A recent example of this trend is “Hy-Fi,” this summer’s MoMA PS1 design that is constructed of organic and compostable eco-bricks. Other projects such as MIT Media Lab’s Silk Pavilion have taken biological innovation a step further by actually using a biometric construction processes – around 6,500 silkworms wove the Silk Pavilion’s membrane. “Animal Printheads,” as Geoff Manaugh calls them in his article “Architecture-By-Bee and Other Animal Printheads,” have already proven to be a viable part of the manufacturing process in art, and perhaps in the future, the built environment as well. But what happens when humans engineer animals to print other materials?

Why 3D Printing Is Not As Sustainable As Its Defenders Say

Yacht designed by Zaha Hadid. Could 3D Printing “someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane”?. Image © Unique Circle Yachts / Zaha Hadid Architects for Bloom+Voss Shipyards

 is a column, penned by Christopher Brenny and presented by ArchDaily Materials, which investigates the innovative applications of  in architecture.

On a purely aesthetic level, 3D printing holds great potential for buildings – all the possibilities of sculpted concrete without the bulky and expensive formwork. Taken to an extreme, it could someday make Hadid-like forms so cheap to execute that they become mundane (even for a non-architect) – maybe even causing the profession to re-evaluate what qualifies as high design. 

However, the more important advantage of 3D printing, what could spur its acceptance as a viable means of , is its supposed sustainability. Among its oft-cited advantages are a use of “green” materials and a reduction in construction waste. However, is 3D Printing really as sustainable as its defenders contend?  

IAAC Invents a Family of Robots to 3D Print Structures of Any Size

The Grip Robot applies further layers to build up the shell. Image Courtesy of Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

One of the major challenges in translating 3D Printing technology into architecture has been the issue of scale. So far, this has generally resulted in ever larger printers, with one of the most successful examples being the KamerMaker, which has been used to 3D print a Dutch Canal House in 2x2x3.5 metre chunks. However, recognizing the limitations on the size of printers, the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) has developed a family of three small, mobile robots which together can print a structure of any size.

Read on after the break for more on the process.

VIDEO: 3D Printing San Francisco’s Future Skyline

The skyline of San Francisco is in the process of significant transformation. Projects such as OMA‘s 550-foot residential tower, as well as developments in the pipeline from Foster + Partners and Studio Gang, are sure to change the city dramatically – thankfully, the 3D printed model in this video is there to show exactly how. The 6×6 foot model shows 115 blocks of downtown San Francisco as it will appear in 2017, and was created by visualization company Steelblue and Autodesk. Claimed to be the largest 3D printed model of a city in the world, it can show much more than just how San Francisco’s downtown will look: overlaid projections can show the status of each building, projected traffic patterns and more. Furthermore, each block is individually replaceable to keep the model up to date. Watch the video, and find out more about the model through this article from SFGate.

MIT Develops Self-Assembling, Easy-Bake Robots

MIT has developed a way to 3D print sheets of material that self-assemble when baked. With inspiration from Japanese origami, researchers have developed — among other objects — robots. Head researcher Daniela Rus is already looking for potential applications saying, ”I want a robot that will play with my cat.” Check out the full article at HNGN to learn more and watch a video of the assembly in action.

Arup Develops 3D Printing Technique for Structural Steel

© David de Jong

A team lead by Arup has developed a method of designing and 3D Printing steel joints which will significantly reduce the time and cost needed to make complex nodes in tensile structures. Their research is being touted as “a whole new direction for the use of additive manufacturing” which provides a way of taking printing “firmly into the realm of real-world, hard hat construction.”

Aside from creating more elegant components which express the forces within each individual joint - as you can see in the above photo – the innovation could potentially reduce costs, cut waste and slash the carbon footprint of the construction sector.

Read on for more on this breakthrough

Seaweed, Salt, Potatoes, & More: Seven Unusual Materials with Architectural Applications

The “Saltygloo” project is an igloo made of printed translucent modular salt panels. Image Courtesy of Matthew Millman

The following article is presented by ArchDaily Materials. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Lara Kristin Herndon and Derrick Mead explore seven innovative architectural and the designers behind them. Some are byproducts, some will help buildings breathe and one is making the leap from 3D printing to 4D printing.

When Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, he was speaking from the spectator’s point of view, not the magician’s. As our list of shows, technology solves difficult problems, but getting there requires more than just a wave of the magic wand. Each of the following projects looks past easy answers. Whether it’s a new way of looking at old problems, a new material that maximizes the efficiency of an old technique, or a new method to tap the potential of an abundant or underutilized resource, here are seven innovators who take technology out of the realm of science fiction.

The Steel Age Is Over. Has The Next Age Begun?

As of now, carbon fiber has only been applied to small scale applications, such as the Textile Room by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Monica Nouwens

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century steel magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — steel was the new kid on the block. People were wary of steel, scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.

Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American history, with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel .

So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper –  what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.

Archibot to Print CAD Data “Error Free” onto Construction Sites

Visualisation. Image Courtesy of Han Seok Nam

Archibot, a project currently being developed by South Korean architectural designer Han Seok Nam, aims to “revolutionize” how architects and contractors work on construction sites by printing digital CAD plans onto the ground “error free.” Having recently been granted a patent, the robot seeks to avoid the human errors associated with interpreting information from construction documents. 

According to Nam, a contractor “will be able to grasp exactly where the door and the wall needs to be constructed by having the construction documents be printed directly onto the site without measurements. Errors will be easily detectable since the construction document can be directly compared to a life-size print out directly on the construction site.” It would be “just like following a map and driving towards a destination.”

See a video of the robot at work, after the break…

The Burgeoning Craft of 3D Printing

KPF’s models of concepts, facades, and building details. Image © John Chu/Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

This article by Marc Kristal from Metropolis Magazine, originally titled “Digital Details,” looks at the work of NRI, a New York company that is leading the way when it comes to (or rather, additive manufacturing) – finding that there is a craft in these machine-produced models after all.

First things first: The term “3-D printing” is a misnomer according to Arthur Young-Spivey, the digital fabrication specialist at NRI—a 116-year-old, New York–headquartered supplier of reprographic services to architects and their tradespeople. “The correct term is ‘additive manufacturing,’” he explains. “People call it 3-D printing because it enables you to wrap your head around it, but in some ways it’s confusing.”

Young-Spivey has a point, as the process by which a digital file is converted into an object isn’t “printing” in the commonly understood sense of applying pigment on a substrate. With 3-D printing, he says, “Instead of using paper, you’re printing with powder or plastics. It’s all one layer at a time.” The thinner the layer, the better the quality, and the longer the process takes. “And there’s always post-production processing, to clean up the model,” he adds. “That’s why ‘additive manufacturing’ is a more accurate description.”

Read on for more on the work of NRI

First 3D Printed House to Be Built In Amsterdam

“The building industry is one of the most polluting and inefficient industries out there,” Hedwig Heinsman of Dus Architects tells The Guardian‘s Olly Wainwright, “With 3D-printing, there is zero waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled. This could revolutionise how we make our cities.”

Working with another Dutch firm, UltimakerDus Architects have developed the KamerMaker (Room Maker), a 3D Printer big enough to print chunks of buildings, up to 2x2x3.5 meters high, out of hotmelt, a bio- mix that’s about 75% plant oil. The chunks can then be stacked and connected together like LEGO bricks, forming multi-story homes whose designs can be adapted according to users’ needs/desires. For Dus’ first project, they’ve taken as inspiration the Dutch canal house, replacing hand-laid bricks with, in Wainwright’s words, “a faceted facade, scripted by computer software.”

So far, only a 3m-high, 180-kg sample corner of the future canal house has been printed; moreover, the blocks will need to be back-filled with lightweight concrete, meaning it’s not yet as biodegradable as its creators would like. However, its game-changing potential is already provoking much interest in the public; over 2,000 people have come to visit the site, including Barack Obama. Learn more at The Guardian and in the video above.

Adobe Photoshop Becomes a Tool for 3D Printing

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Adobe has unveiled a major update to CC (Creative Cloud) with the hope that a “radically simplified 3D printing process” will make their software the “go-to tool for anyone who wants to print a 3D model.” Their new software allows for designers to create a model from scratch or refine an existing design leading to perfect print ready 3D models. Since one of the most common problems with 3D printing is the human errors in virtual modeling, includes automatic mesh repair and will insert a support structure if necessary to ensure that the model will print reliably and without faults.

You can find out more about Adobe Photoshop and 3D Printing here. This update to Photoshop is already available for those who are subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Four Architectural Innovations Make Time’s Top 25 Inventions For 2013

The Infinity Tower by GDS Architects. Image Courtesy of fastcodesign.com

Last week Time Magazine released their list of the top 25 inventions of 2013. The list covers both fun and life-changing new ideas, covering everything from the Cronut to the Artificial Pancreas – but there are also four architectural innovations that made the prestigious list. Find out more about them after the break.

ArchDaily 3D Printing Challenge: The Winners

has opened up a whole new world for architecture. Technology that was once restricted to fabrication labs is now available to the end user – and at an affordable price. Of course, this new technology has also created the necessity to easily share 3D data over the web.

With this in mind, we partnered with Gigabot – the biggest, most affordable 3D printer (it can print models up to 60x60x60cm) – and with Sketchfab, a new platform that is bridging the gap between the 3D models on your desktop and on the web.

We invited our readers to model their favorite architectural classic, and today we are announcing the two winners who will  recive a real-life physical model, printed with the Gigabot.

The Gigabot team chose the Villa Savoye modeled by by Luiza Lense as their pick, and our readers also voted this model as the most popular. According to the rules, the People’s Choice goes to the second most voted model: the Lotus Temple by Elijah Wood. We will document the printing process to show you how they go from bits to atoms!

Thanks to everyone who submitted their 3D Models. You can see all the submissions in our 3D Printing Challenge page.

3D Printing Moves Into the Fourth Dimension

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While most of us are grappling with the idea of 3D printing, Skylar Tibbits – computational architect and lecturer at MIT – is spearheading projects towards a fourth dimension. Transformation, Tibbit claims, is an uncharted capability that enables objects – straight off the printing bed – to assemble themselves, changing from one form to another. “Think: robots with no wires or motors.” Tibbits exhibits how a single strand – embedded with predetermined properties – can fold from a line to a three dimensional structure. “I invite you to join us in reinventing how things come together.”

ArchDaily 3D Printing Challenge: Vote For Your Favorites!

As 3D Printing becomes more accessible, and a whole lot cheaper, it will open up a whole new world for architecture. There’s just one problem: how to share all that 3D data easily over the web. With this in mind, we’ve partnered with Gigabot - the biggest, most affordable 3D printer (printing models up to 60x60x60cm) – and Sketchfab - a new platform bridging the gap between the 3D models on your desktop and the web – to launch a new, exciting competition.

We asked our readers to model their favorite architectural classics from the AD Classics section, upload it to Sketchfab, and share it with the ArchDaily community. The submitted models are now available in our gallery, and it will be up to our readers to vote for their favorites – giving the authors the chance to have their model printed and delivered straight to his or her doorstep!

Voting is open until October 17th 11:59PM EST. On October 18th we’ll reveal the People’s Choice winner and the Gigabot Selection.

Browse and vote for your favorite model now!

Want to Get Into 3D Printing? Follow These Tips…

Courtesy of The Chicago Architecture Foundation

Even if you’re a 3D printing whiz (if so, consider entering our exciting 3D Printing Challenge), to many people it remains something of a mystery: how does it work, what can it do and how much does it cost? Thankfully, this recent article and infographic by Line//Shape//Space, aimed at “early adopters” of the , covers all this information (and even some common pitfalls to be avoided). You can read the full article here.

ArchDaily 3D Printing Challenge

Printing has opened up a whole new world for architecture. that was once restricted to fabrication labs is now available to the end user – and at an affordable price. Of course, this new has also created the necessity to easily share data over the web.

With this in mind, we have partnered with Gigabot – the biggest, most affordable 3D printer (it can print models up to 60x60x60cm) – and with Sketchfab, a new platform that is bridging the gap between the 3D models on your desktop and on the web.

We want to encourage users to start using this new technology, and what better way than to start printing the buildings we love? We invite you to model your favorite architectural classic and receive a real-life physical model, right on your doorstep.

The process is simple: model any building that is already on the AD Classics section, upload it to Sketchfab, and submit it using the following form. You’ll have two opportunities to win: ArchDaily readers will vote for one People’s Choice Award winner, and, together with Gigabot, we at ArchDaily will pick one winner as well. Both winners will be printed and shipped anywhere in the world. We’ll also make all the models available to the ArchDaily community, so anyone can add an extra layer of building information to these classics.

Submissions are open until October 1st; winners will be announced on October 7th. Read below for the full rules.

SUBMIT YOUR MODEL