So we have all heard of 3D printers, right? We’re not talking printing photos on flat paper here folks; we’re talking printing ears and guns. Well recently, some architects decided to “print” a room. (And no, not four flat walls…) Check it out!
Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer teamed up with an eight-person fabrication team to create an entirely 3D-printed 172-square-foot room. Titled “Digital Grotesque,” the room is made up of 3D-printed sandstone in two large halves that come together and form a space for viewers to explore its intricate design details.
While working on the design took about a year, the team finished printing after a month and put the room together in only one day.
The all-white structure is made up of complex forms that twist and turn, sometimes folding into weird shapes that look like the inside of a kaleidoscope. Viewers can walk into the structure to see the designs up close, as shown in the video below.
By using computational design and additive manufacturing, we can design architecture with a complexity and richness that would be impossible to draw by hand.
By using computational design and additive manufacturing, we can design architecture with a complexity and richness that would be impossible to draw by hand,” wrote Hansmeyer. “We’re primarily exploring the expressive potentials of these new technologies, by devising new spatial experiences and sensations.”
The Switzerland-based architects’ work utilizes customized algorithms, starting with a simple form that is repeatedly divided into smaller parts through computational design. When the division rates are tweaked, the geometry changes; in the end, the ‘Digital Grotesque’ algorithm creates a form with 260 million individual parts. The changes happen quickly and easily, much more efficiently than if someone took the time to hand-draw them. Each part of the structure — from its overall shape to its smallest design detail — was created this way.
While, 3D printing has been used for objects such as shoes and even a gun, “Digital Grotesque” ranks among the first to build something larger than the human body; the structure towers more than 10 feet high.
As Hansmeyer points out, architects can now move more quickly from model-making to building a solid structure that can stand on its own: They don’t need to take extra steps between the computational design and the additive manufacturing that yields the 3D-printed parts.
“A single printed piece can weigh up to 12 tons, yet have a resolution at fraction of a millimeter,” wrote Hansmeyer. “Also, the sand-printed pieces are massive and fully structural themselves; they don’t need any additional support structure.”
The resolution refers to the height of each printed layer or “how much the print head moves at each step.” The team created each piece with distinct construction details that make them fit into other pieces easily.The pieces are then sprayed with resin to add more stability to the smaller parts of the design and close the pores of the sandstone.
“Digital Grotesque” explores both how technology can lead to new ways of building and help express creative visions more fully. Hansmeyer explains that the name came from the way the project explores the “delicate balance between the expected and the unexpected, between control and relinquishment.”
3D printing is relatively inexpensive; while the printer might put a significant dent in users’ wallets, the printing itself remains relatively affordable. In addition, this particularly complicated design could not possibly function on CAD software — the go-to program for architects — because of the large amount of data it contains.
“For the first time, there is no longer a cost for complexity: printing a highly detailed and ornamental room costs the same as printing a plain box,” wrote Hansmeyer. “Also, the scope of possible designs has been vastly expanded: one can print geometries that would have been impossible to manufacture using any other method. Just as importantly, there is no cost for customization: printing highly individual designs costs no more than printing a standardized series.
“Digital Grotesque” will sit in the permanent collection of the FRAC Centre in France.