3-D printed Buildings. Is this Sci-Fi or Reality?

It’s Reality.


The world we are living in is fascinating.  How cool is it to witness all of the new inventions and technologies that are being produced and sold in the commercial realm?  We don’t just read about it anymore, but are witnessing and participating in the progression of the innovations.  As a culture we are constantly testing out these news products, offering reviews to the masses about our individual experience with these products, and determining whether they will be a successful products or one sthat goes back to the drawing board.  Which brings us to the recent innovation from the MIT Lab Mediated Matter Group and engineering student Steven Keating, on developing a robot that can 3-d print an entire building.  Yes, that’s right.  One robot can print a small building in 16 hours.

3-D robot

How does this whole process work? The Digital Creation System (the name of the robot) is a tracked vehicle that has a large protruding robotic arm with a smaller more agile, super controllable, robotic arm, stationed at the end of it.  The smaller arm has interchangeable heads from a nozzle that can spray foam or pour materials, to something like a milling head, or shovel. typically 3-D printers are encased in a box like structure with a determined size of how large it can print. The MIT 3-D printer is free moving and can build any size object, depending on the length of the arm. The potential of this machine is incredible.  This video which shows a protype of the 3-D printer building a dome.

The whole system is controlled electronically or it can be powered by solar panels and it is designed to be self sufficient where it can be deployed to remote areas, or disaster relief, or to mars….. What?  In the future,  which could be tomorrow with how rapid technological development is moving, they for see this machine working autonomously.

The designers envision a super smart machine that can customize the building to the environment. “For example, a building could have thicker, more insulated walls on its north side in cold climates, or walls that taper from bottom to top as their load-bearing requirements decrease, or curves that help the structure withstand winds.” With this in mind, they see the building process becoming more customized, safer, and more affordable.

But when it comes down to it. The way this machine works is not in the mindset of traditional building methods.  It’s a new way of design thinking and problem solving. whether this is the wave of the future or a passing trend it is something to be noted of what is possible and what our future’s hold.

Oxman, group director working on the project notes. ” 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.”

At JMKW Development we are interested in what is possible and see value in innovation and invention AND! we will keep you posted in what we find out.

The robotic system is described this week in the journal Science Robotics, in a paper by Steven Keating PhD ’16, a mechanical engineering graduate and former research affiliate in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab; Julian Leland and Levi Cai, both research assistants in the Mediated Matter group; and Neri Oxman, group director and associate professor of media arts and sciences.