Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fall 2015 Architectural 3D Printing Update: Reversible Concrete

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, in collaboration with Gramazio Kohler Research and ETH Zurich, unveiled their new 3D printed architectural feature “Rock Print” at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The 3D printing method utilized for the sculpture mimics some of concrete’s best characteristics such as its strength and flexibility in addition to the capability of being disassemblable. This property, achieved by cramming a bunch of stuff into a small space and thereafter relying the system’s inherent friction, is called the “jamming phenomenon” and in this example employs string, rock and a lot of material science to achieve the effect. The automated placement of the materials is done by robot arm and produces a structure of comparable strength to concrete but which retains the capability to be disassembled (just like LEGO). Andreas Thoma of Gramazio Kohler Research goes on to state: “The ability to digitally fabricate, disassemble, and reassemble structures with no material losses changes the paradigm of architecture as well as the view of permanent / temporary architecture." I’m actually not particularly drawn to the topic of temporary architecture – I’ll leave that to the retail specialists – I personally come done much more on the side of high-quality permanent structures but architectural 3D printing should at least fire one’s imagination in regards to the architectural possibilities. The design itself is pretty good. It’s solid public art that is both smooth and gracefully extends its heft up while showcasing innovation. I’m just not sure it falls into the rare and elite category of sculpture I’d want to own.

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