June 23, 2014

There's a lot you can do with a 3D printer, even large-scale objects like houses. The typical approach to 3D print building is to use crane-like arms to print parts of houses layer by layer. But this 3D printing technology limits the size at which one can build, and the enormous 3D printer takes a lot of space and is difficult to transport. Researchers at Sabin Design Lab, Cornell University and Jenny Sabin Studio have come up a new method to 3D print large-scale forms using customized digital tools, low-cost printing materials and 3D printed interlocking component based systems called PolyBricks.

PolyBricks are nonstandard high-resolution ceramic bricks that are similar to cinder blocks, but requires no additional adhesives or mortar. The researchers looked to traditional wood joinery techniques as a means of interlocking adjacent components and developed customized tapered dovetail shape lock the bricks to one another.

"We developed a customized tapered dovetail in which the direction and severity of the tapering is dependent upon the local geometric orientation of each component; the tapering of the dovetail is based upon the slope of the surface being generated such that the narrow end of the tapering is always at the lower face of the generated surface. Thus, the force of gravity locks adjacent components together." notes the team.

The PolyBricks are designed to print in a ZCorp 510 color powder - based 3D printer. They are designed to be hollow, in order to efficiently use material and time involved, and also designed to contain holes in order to ensure for removal of interior loose clay powder during post processing. The process was slow but allowed for a higher degree of accuracy and resolution.

Detail of PolyBrick parts in greenware stage (left) and bisque fired stage (right). Tolerances were maintained throughout the printing and firing phases.

After cleaning the greenware printed bricks, they are fired to a low initial bisque fire which decreases warping and shrinkage, and then subsequently dipped in a high fire satin glaze. Once glazed, the bricks are then fired to a higher temperature in order to ensure that the glaze vitrifies. Finally the prints are then assembled with their neighbors accordingly.

PolyBrick in greenware stage after being excavated from the 3D printer and cleaned (left) and after the first firing, the bisque fire (right).

The results of these methods have shown that the 3D printing of full - scale clay component systems are well within reach. The printing of the bricks is relatively cost effective with minimal labor and efficient use of low cost materials. The process is replicable for more complex geometries and is scalable. We found that increasing the number of print heads in use during the print build equates to faster build time. Although we experimented with several binder solutions with various alcohol bases, we found that using the ZCorp binder and allowing it to burn out during the first bisque fire resulted in more durable greenware printed parts. Additional printers running simultaneously would increase the number and degree of parts produced. The assembly logic is embedded in each part through embossing.

The team will work on the improvement of the design and printing process in the foreseeable future. But this research showcases the next steps in the construction using algorithmic design techniques and digital fabrication. "We have effectively designed a system for mortarless brick assemblies at scales beyond existing constraints of the print bed size of a large - format color printer." the team concluded.


Source: Liberpub

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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