3D printing in architecture - ISPLORA

3D printing in architecture


Possible fast and accessible alternatives to traditional ways of building and living

2018 will certainly be remembered as the year of 3D printing in architecture for the many projects created using this technology, from the “3D Housing 05” developed by the CLS Architetti firm for the Milan Design Week to the first 3D-printed steel bridge by the Dutch robotics company MX3D for the Dutch Design Week, held last October in Eindhoven. In the meantime, Dubai presented its “3D Printing Strategy”, a global initiative to turn the city into a world-wide leader in the field of 3D printing, while NASA designed shelters to conquer the Red Planet within the context of its “3D-Printed Habitat Challenge”.

The creations were different, as different are the goals of the various projects, which shared however a common premise: using 3D printing to radically change our way of living and especially building technology and methods.

3D printing technology applied to architecture is no longer a utopia, but a true alternative for the construction of sustainable and flexible habitats

After the world’s first 3D-printed structure developed in 2016 in Dubai, the “Office of the Future” by Killa Design and Gensler which was completed in 17 days, the city in the Arab Emirates suggested a new urban strategy based on this technology. The Dubai Future Foundation, whose home is currently in the office designed by Killa Design, stated that the city plans to reduce labor by 70% and cut overall costs by 90% thanks to the 3D Printing Strategy. A redefinition of productivity, which aims at reducing construction costs by means of a dramatic reduction of the time it takes to implement the projects. According to the national plan, 25% of the new buildings will be 3D printed by 2025, mainly to reduce costs in the medical and construction sectors, to create a new labor market.

The Dubai experience is counterbalanced by the Texas-based company ICON, which created a 3D printer capable of building a house at just 4,000 $. The printer, called Vulcan, can print a single-story concrete house of approximately 60sqm in just 12-24 hours. The idea suggested by ICON, a non-profit organization focused on the building sector, is based on the goal of “upturning the trajectory of innovation” by moving the printer to El Salvador in Latin America to offer a valid alternative to the management of the housing emergency and provide shelter to the many homeless people. The idea of shelter is also the basis for the “3D Printed Habitat Challenge” initiative, organized by NASA to develop new technologies capable of creating a new habitat for future space exploration, in particular on Mars. A vision which might have an impact on daily life on our planet, as using the knowledge and devices tested by NASA could lead to the development of housing at accessible costs, usable wherever needed.

The competition asked for participants to design a habitat on Mars for a crew of 4 astronauts, using building technologies based on 3D printing. The submissions were then classified according to their level of innovation, their architectural layout and the level of detail in the Building Information Model.

The project is now in its third phase, 5 projects have been selected and funded and over the next few months will be implemented in terms of construction and analyzed in depth for their full feasibility.  

Last, but not least, we need to mention the “3D Housing 05” project, presented last April at the Milan Design Week in Piazza Beccaria. The project, the first of its kind in Europe, uses an innovative 3D printing technology utilizing a specific concrete composite to create a 100sqm house featuring a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and terrace roof. The house was conceived and designed by Massimiliano Locatelli, one of the founders of the Milan-based firm CLS Architetti, in cooperation with Arup, Italcementi HeidelbergCement Group, Cybe Construction and the City of Milan.

The surface is the result of the deposit of the various layers of the Cybe printer, a robotic arm which works like any other 3D machine, while the ribbed finishing highlights the material nature of the building, where other architectural elements are added, such as the brass fixtures inserted inside the printed container which add elegance to the construction.



The house is earthquake-resistant, has cavity walls for insulation and wiring, and can be expanded in its height and size.  A project which, as the other ones listed above, will probably be destined to revolutionize our way of building and living, offering an alternative to traditional architecture and introducing new principles: creativity, sustainability, accessibility and rapidity.


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