Oct 20, 2015 | By Kira

A novel 3D printing technique was unveiled at the L’Usage des Formes exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris that could present an entirely new way of 3D printing full-scale architectural structures with minimal material and almost no spatial limitations. Titled Iridescence Print, the installation is the first ever large-scale architectural structure to be automatically 3D printed entirely by robotic machines, and was developed by the Gramazio Kohler Research in Zurich, an institute that combines digital manufacturing and architectural production.

The impressively intricate multi-color installation, a 12-metre long undulating structure, was constructed by an industrial robot equipped with a custom extrusion tool that can 3D print continuous mesh structures freely in space. Since the entire structure was built in 12 segments (and then assembled on-site), the fabrication setup consisted of small-scale six-axis robotic arms with built-in saftey features that eliminated the need for additional safety infrastructure. Each arm was equipped with custom-built printing heads that were able to extrude on average 12 mm of plastic filament per second.

The material used was an extruded ABS polymer, and as the entire structure required no additional material for assembly or fittings, it is in principle fully recyclable. Given the fluidity of the design, composed of two dense outer mesh layers that periodically connect and disconnect from one another, the mesh structure was actually adapted to accommodate not only the unique parameters of the exhibition space, but also a selection of 24 artifacts and pieces of art, meaning that it is a completely adaptable structure that could fulfill a variety of spaces and needs. Amazingly, the total amount of material required for this expansive, large-scale structure was only about 70 kilos, spanning over 8m3 in volume.

The researchers explain that their approach offers unique advantages over conventional approaches to 3D printing—mainly, it can be performed freely in space, is scalable, and shows great potential for the development of geometrically complex architectural structures fabricated from a relatively simply filament 3D printing process.

They also explain that when linked with innovative robotic machinery, spatial 3D printing can be more time and resource efficient than the 2D horizontal layering of materials, since the material is brought directly to where it is required in space. “This project demonstrates the feasibility of robotically printed mesh structures, and radically extends the traditional spectrum of 3D printing toward novel, possibly geometrically extreme and internally differentiated lightweight structures,” said the developpers, led by Andreas Thoma. “It places 3D material manipulation at the center of the process—from the design and construction through to the object's final form—and thus enables a paradigm shift from layer-based approaches, which are often limited to 2D positioning of material at a fixed resolution… This is key to exploring the full potential of 3D printing in real-world architecture applications, where preservation of scale is essential.”

Robotic-based production process of one of Iridescence Print's 12 sections

Though not yet in its true architectural stage, Iridescence Print is a novel experiment in design and materials research, with real-world architectural and digital manufacturing applications. In its current exhibition form at the Palais de Tokyo, the continuous looping mesh structure, whose complex fabrication sequence is actually encoded into white, yellow and blue colours of the material itself, is a stunning work of art that challenges us to rethink what is possible in terms of 3D printed architecture.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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samantha wrote at 10/21/2015 6:31:01 AM:

it's a humongous 3D pen

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