Monday, November 07, 2016

Discrete Brick-by-Brick Architectural 3D Printing Technology

It's interesting how quickly architectural 3D printing is advancing. Take, for instance, my previous post about an Australian brick laying robot compared to the recently revealed Archi-Union of Shanghai's additive construction technology (via The earlier example looks quite primitive compared to the artistry and grace of the Chinese model. A couple of things to point out: Firstly, the surface which was to be faced with brick is quite unorthodox and a challenge to attempt by hand. I immediately recognized the surface as being computationally derived though by which method I can not tell. I would of course be attracted to defining such a surface with differential equations but for all I can tell maybe the studio just played around with symmetrical NURBS curves. In any case, the end result is certainly more visually stimulating than a plain flat brick wall. This brings us to our second point: completing such a complex surface in brick by hand to the tolerances needed to express the pattern is the main benefit offered by architectural 3D printing in these situations. The subtle gradations required to express the pattern work against the traditional tolerances allowed for when laying brick by hand. Without precision the pattern becomes murky.

Another point which readers might doubt is whether this technology really deserves to be called 3D printing or not. Sometimes we view 3D printing as strictly an extrusion process. I'm comfortable shifting the whole topic to additive construction if that reduces anyone's consternation. I much rather design and build with this technology than fight about its label. In so many ways, but especially when designing, this technology and 3D extrusion are similar in how the design is computationally derived and how tolerances are moved into the software domain. That's why I feel it's worthy of inclusion under the title or architectural 3D printing. Here one can imagine the bricks are just larger discrete elements instead of the fine particulate matter normally associated with 3D printing.

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