April 4, 2014

An Italian engineer has gone from playing with sand to printing with it. Enrico Dini hopes to re-shape the world for the better by replicating natural objects with the D-Shape - one of the world's largest 3D printers.

Dini spent his childhood playing with sand. Now many years later, the Italian inventor is using it to create large-scale replicas of reefs.

In the last few years, Dini has been perfecting a technique for moulding lifelike coral reefs from sand using his massive D-Shape 3D printer. He and his team have been dredging sand and sludge from the seabed along the coast, drying it in the sun, ticking it through D-Shape and printing the reefs one layer at a time using a mixture of sand and a seawater-based binder. Once this has been done, it's placed back in the seabed from whence it came to protect the coast.

Dini said 3D printing allows him to create things which is almost impossible to make by hand. The idea is to mine the seabed and take the binders and sand from the exact same spot where the 3D printed object will be placed.

Pilot programs have already been launched in England and select locations in the Middle East. Experts say it is a promising step in the fight to restore the costal habitats, but the focus must also be on regrowing natural corals. Dini hopes his creations can not only help to protect the environment but also be used to print pieces for humans in the future.

Enrico Dini's D-shape 3D printer is a large aluminium gantry structure, which uses CAM software to drive a huge print head during the building process. It can print buildings - at least the most parts of it - on site with much less manpower needed for construction. It deposits sand followed by an inorganic binding material. Excess material acts as a support to the binded structure and when the print is finished the excess material can be removed and reused.

D-shape 3D printer is one of the biggest 3D-printer in the world, handling objects as big as six metres cubed, layered in 5mm sections.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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