In previous years we have reported on plans for 3D printed buildings in Amsterdam and Dubai. With the rapid advances in 3D printing technology, such projects are becoming less of a pipe dream and more of a reality. Recently, MIT announced the design of a system that can 3D print the basic structure of an entire building. Researchers say that the completely customisable system could produce structures faster, cheaper and safer than current construction methods.
The system comprises a tracked vehicle carrying a large robotic arm, with a smaller precision arm at its end. It can be used to direct construction nozzles for various materials (including pouring concrete or spraying insulation) and other construction tools, such as a milling head. Unlike typical 3D printers, MIT’s system is free-moving and can construct objects of any size. Click here to view a proof of concept run, where a prototype was used to build the walls of a 50 by 12 foot dome. The structure took 14 printing hours to complete.
According to Neri Oxman, research group director and associate professor of media arts and sciences, the system does not just represent an engineering advance:
Making it faster, better, and cheaper is one thing. But the ability to design and digitally fabricate multifunctional structures in a single build embodies a shift from the machine age to the biological age — from considering the building as a machine to live in, made of standardized parts, to the building as an organism, which is computationally grown, additively manufactured, and possibly biologically augmented.