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3D printing is one of the most fascinating technological advancements of our time. It has everyone from artists to scientists giddy with the limitless possibilities. 3D printers use materials (including resin, plastic and metal) to print 3D objects, ranging between six to 24 inches in height; smaller objects are usually printed separately, and assembled to create larger ones.
As far as architecture is concerned, 3D printing is used primarily to create scale models. This enables architects to achieve geometric accuracy, manipulate dimensions to enhance aesthetics and practicality, and save time in building miniatures that can be used as displays and as a point of reference during the construction phase.
Architects are now using 3D printing for more than just models. For instance, Adrien Preistman, a British architect, has moved to the next level by designing the first ‘printed’ construction element; he used small, complex joints in the plastic roof canopy of the 6 Bevis Marks building in London. Printed in pieces, these joints serve as nodes between the building columns and arms of the canopy.
Meanwhile, Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California, has designed a method to print habitable structures using the principles of contour crafting, in which massive objects can be printed layer by layer. This technology has caught the interest of NASA, and Khoshnevis is now designing structures that can be used to colonise the moon and other planets using his technology.
It certainly seems as if we already have all the components to live in a 3D printed world – even in Pakistan. The country’s first 3D printing facility, Robotics Labs, was established in 2011. But considering the higher costs of 3D printers and printing materials ($60 to $200 per kilogramme), it is less likely to have practical implementation in the local architectural industry soon.
– Amena Nadeem
The writer is an architect at Studio Subtractive.
First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 30, 2014.