Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Printing a Building

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the you're-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat dept.

Hardware 112

RedEaredSlider writes "Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to push 3-D printing technology even further. Their goals: create whole working machines and perhaps even buildings. Thus far, 3D printing has been used to make shapes of plastic or metal that can be assembled later. These folks want to change that. One idea is to use concrete in a novel way: 'Not only would it be possible to create fanciful, organic-looking shapes that would be difficult or impossible using molds, but the technique could also allow the properties of the concrete itself to vary continuously, producing structures that are both lighter and stronger than conventional concrete. To illustrate this, Keating uses the example of a palm tree compared to a typical structural column. In a concrete column, the properties of the material are constant, resulting in a very heavy structure. But a palm tree’s trunk varies: denser at the outside and lighter toward the center. As part of his thesis research, he has already made sections of concrete with the same kind of variations of density.'"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Booring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422070)

Alert me when they print a 3d printer.

Re:Booring. (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | about 3 years ago | (#37422330)

The already have. 3d printers can print their own parts, but it requires some manual assembly to make the 2nd printer. I'm sure it's not a very big leap to extend the printer to have an assembly component as well.

Re:Booring. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#37423116)

Nonsense. They can print their purely mechanical components. No 3D printers can yet print any of these required components:
  • Wires (although a few can print circuit boards)
  • Electric motors
  • Any electronic components, including (but not limited to) ICs

Re:Booring. (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | about 3 years ago | (#37423876)

Motors I'm not sure about (not sure how the coils get wound, never looked into it). But the ICs are automated in manufacturing, so you could probably add that into the whole setup. It would be difficult but I'd say we're really really close to building a factory factory that produces factory factories.

Re:Booring. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#37424002)

ICs require a lot of machinery to produce. The cost of a wafer fab is measured in billions of dollars. Even if you start with clean silicon wafers as the input, you've got a lot of work to etch the die and then package it. Every IC requires a lot of complicated setup for that specific chip. We don't have factories that you can just upload a mask to and get a single IC out, we have factories where you set up a mask and then do a production run of a few tens of thousands of chips (at least) because otherwise it isn't worth the cost of the setup.

Re:Booring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37424462)

640KB should be enough for any machine code.

Oh you want to run windows on your waffle-maker.

A four course dinner? (1)

Tsingi (870990) | about 3 years ago | (#37422108)

You've been able to replicate a four course dinner (from the article) on the USS Enterprise for, like, ever man!

and Dr. Suess, too! (3, Insightful)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37422130)

The shades of Antoni Gaudi and Nader Khalili approve of this research.

Pretty neat... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37422158)

I suspect that, if made practical on a larger scale, this 3D printing will make variable-property concrete substantially more common, cheap, and swift to put up; but it deserves mention that the Roman architects who constructed the dome of the Pantheon actually used a similar strategy of progressively lighter aggregate mixes as they went further up the dome, resulting in a substantially lighter and more durable structure... A very cute trick that would be handy to see revived.

Re:Pretty neat... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422356)

That "cute trick" needs no revival, it's been used in just about every large scale construction project since well, the Pantheon. This is something wholly different though, since it would allow you to actually vary the density of the concrete within a single application, rather than just stacking progressively lighter applications.

Re:Pretty neat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423408)

Revival is a broad term. We may have been doing the same trick for the past 2,000 years but we still have to make the process faster and as waste free as possible.

Oh Pooh (0)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 3 years ago | (#37422192)

The frikken Romans used variable density concrete aka opus caementicium in their structures.

The Pantheon is full of this technique.

This is not new.

Re:Oh Pooh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422264)

Yes - I'm quite sure that the MIT scientists never considered historical sources. Perhaps you should email them to say how stupid they are.

I believe the point that the guy was trying to make was that you could vary the density of concrete in a single "casting", as opposed to the current/past method of stacking discrete blocks of varying densities.

Re:Oh Pooh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37425074)

Yes - I'm quite sure that the MIT scientists never considered historical sources. Perhaps you should email them to say how stupid they are.

Clue: People with great knowledge and understanding on one topic are not necessarily as well informed on other topics. Genius if often restricted to a topic, with the person being quite normal or sub-par in other areas. I would not be so quick to assume MIT scientists are well informed about history or have sufficient interest to go do historical research. I used to take a lot of history classes in college for fun. Except for required general ed classes I don't really recall any other scientists or engineers in the classes.

Re:Oh Pooh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422408)

I agree. The important part of this research isn't the 3d printing of a variable density form of concrete but variable density concrete overall. How stupid! The Romans did all this way back when. Congratz! You've unlocked the secret of Hyperion Printicus (HP for short) of the Roman era. 3d printing of structures is so 10 B.C.E.

This shouldn't be on /. The Pantheon is full of 3D printed variable density concrete. FULL OF IT! NOTHING NEW HERE!!!

I'm not saying it was aliens

but it was aliens.

Would you download a car? (4, Funny)

alex_guy_CA (748887) | about 3 years ago | (#37422216)

Yes. Yes I would.

Re:Would you download a car? (2)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37422294)

But the cartridge with the materials will cost you $150,000. I guess that's the whole point, actually.

Re:Would you download a car? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 3 years ago | (#37422334)

If the RIAA had its way, the design would be another $100,000 on top of that. Just to, you know, "pay back the artist..ha ha."

Re:Would you download a car? (2)

Dabido (802599) | about 3 years ago | (#37426766)

So ... download it from work! :-)

Re:Would you download a car? (1)

Geminii (954348) | about 3 years ago | (#37427274)

What would it cost to buy one and a half tons of pelleted steel from a car scrapyard?

lack of real-world experience (3, Informative)

SethJohnson (112166) | about 3 years ago | (#37422224)

If this grad school student were to spend a summer working with concrete, he would learn that it's not a medium suited for 3-D printing.

Civil engineers would reject any concrete structure design proposed with 3-D printing. They despise cold joints, and if a vertical support consisted of dozens of cold joints, that's a no-go from the beginning. That's just one dimension of this flawed concept. Comparing a flexible material like a palm tree to an absolutely rigid material like concrete is pure folly. Concrete structures don't bend under load. They crack and break.


Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37422378)

Yup. Concrete can take a beating when you compress it - like in a column. Come and push on that column laterally and watch the whole thing come falling down. It doesn't shear so well. Not an engineer but I've built a few things...

Re:lack of real-world experience (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 years ago | (#37422536)

reinforced concrete shears wonderfully. nothing to say you can't 3rd print with internal equivalent of rebar caging system, which perhaps also is automatically assembled or perhaps also 3rd formed

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37423482)

I'm not a metallurgist but I think that print head would have to get pretty nifty to be able to deposit steel one layer at a time but with the same qualities as traditional steel. Making that stuff correctly is tricky business and if done wrong it will just shatter under very small stresses. I'm not saying it can't be done, I just can't imagine how it could be done. Plastic is one thing, but steel is another kettle of fish.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 years ago | (#37424048)

Metals are more suitable for selective laser sintering/melting [] , but I can't fathom how you would combine this with a method where you deposit concrete. I'd expect the concrete to mix with the metal powder and give some sort of unholy porridge-like substance.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 years ago | (#37424840)

You'd offset the metal print head above the concrete print head vertically so that the metal on a layer would be formed before the concrete on the same layer.

Or you'd just reinforce your concrete with fiber instead.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37426260)

Even if you solve this problem, sintered steel is still substantially weaker than the forged steel that rebar is typically made of. You're therefore going to need a hell of a lot more of it, resulting in a heavier structure that is substantially more expensive to build than traditional techniques.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37424872)

Why not just lay down the steel from a big spool of wire?

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 years ago | (#37424006)

reinforced concrete shears wonderfully. nothing to say you can't 3rd print with internal equivalent of rebar caging system, which perhaps also is automatically assembled or perhaps also 3rd formed

You couldn't pre-stress the rebar if you printed it. You could stretch it and print around though, I suppose.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37424182)

Wow you want to make a print head that sprays out a super think layer of steel? They do metal rapid prototyping but they use laser sintering. [] Not really the best solution for building indoors.
The funny thing is the example they gave. Well we do that now. They are called hollow columns.
I do love the idea but it is very iffy.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

morgauxo (974071) | about 3 years ago | (#37423124)

The University of Michigan in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation trialed some flexible concrete that they made a bridge out of. I forget if it goes over I94 or if it is part of I94. Either way it's a busy bridge. So far as I know it has held up fine. Granted, this is not flexible as in rubber, it's not like you or I could walk up to the bridge and bend it. It flexes when the bridge expands and contracts with the big temperature changes between seasons. Conventional concrete bridges have a gap with metal interlocking teeth to accomplish this. Eventually the gap gets filled with dirt, the bridge no longer has room to move and it begins to break down.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422380)

Look up the phrase "proof-of-concept". It might help you understand what's going on here.

Re:lack of real-world experience (4, Interesting)

nschubach (922175) | about 3 years ago | (#37422392)

I'm not sure you'd do the entire building in one print.

Maybe you print out the foundation "skin", drop some re-bar in specific locations (that are also printed in place) then have a truck come in later to pour the filling concrete. You avoid having to setup/tear down/transport forms. You can make the foundation any size or shape (again, without special forms) and even color without having to dye the entire batch of concrete. (From what I hear, concrete guys love dyed concrete.../sarcasm)

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37422720)

Obviously this problem would be best served by two cooperating systems.
Feedstock would be cement for the concrete extrusion robot. The other feedstock would would be rebar which would be formed by some sort of bending robot.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422970)

And it's ethanol powered!

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37423698)

Actually, there were some videos of pipe bending robots [] that made the rounds on the web recently that make Mr. Rodriquez look like a look like a incompetent toddler. Downright fluid and graceful.

Re:lack of real-world experience (2)

Plazmid (1132467) | about 3 years ago | (#37426498)

That's pretty much the process that's been proposed by the USC contour crafting group proposed for doing rebar. Print a shell layer, drop in some modular rebar sections,then you fill up the shell with concrete so that your rebar connectors sticks out, and then repeat for the next layer. Another way to do reinforcement is to put a metal coil on your top layer and to print over it, so the coil gets embedded in the concrete. They've actually demonstrated this.

So why stop at just printing in colors? The contour crafting group has proposed putting in tiling, plumbing, electrical wiring, heaters, and strain gauges.

See this paper for more: []

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#37422404)

Careful...there are things you can do with concrete which - while quite a bit outside the mainstream of construction - have been used. Naturally, I didn't RTFA, but if the printer can supply an internal web of properly place, ductile material and the concrete can be formed in a continuous process which allows the hydration to occur across the layer interface you could conceivably create some interesting results. It's a long, long way from the 400-800yd cost of concrete today (that's formed, placed, reinforced, and finished, not just the $90-120/yd for the mix), but there are things you could do that would be quite interesting architecturally.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422534)

Speaking as someone who studied concrete structural design in college, you can continuously pour a concrete structure, it takes hours to days for concrete to set, depending on the formulation.

Joints in concrete are fine too as long as they are intentional and designed properly. Concrete is fine in tension, as long as it's properly reinforced.

And, currently, different mixes and reinforcement cross sections can be used in various locations a single structure depending on the load and properties desired.

So, essentially, 3d printing as described in the article *is* the current technology used to build concrete buildings, except it's done by sweaty construction workers instead of MIT researchers. And you'll get screwed for the cost of the proprietary cartridge instead of paying by the truck load.

Re:lack of real-world experience (4, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 years ago | (#37422616)

actually, there are flexible composite concretes, some that even self-heal if stressed to cracking. And of course maybe 3D printing around support system could allow reinforced concrete printing. We're talking about research for future tech, what an old civil engineer would complain about might have no relevance at all if new materials and methods used. Advancement of civilization is all about new materials and new methods of using them.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422628)

I know, right? This guy is an imbecile. Doesn't have the foggiest idea of what he's doing. Keep trying, Poindexter, but you'll never get into MIT with dumb ideas like that.

What a stooge! Doesn't he realize you go from idea to production immediately? And he hasn't solved all the concerns with the tech either! Dumbass! Engineers don't like cold joints, for good reason, why didn't he figure out the solution BEFORE doing the work? Any good scientist will tell you that you figure out the details BEFORE making a new technology or advancement. You don't create a new material THEN figure out how to use it. You ALWAYS know exactly how to use it and never shall it be used in any other manner. So they guy can print variable density concrete. Big woop. We don't know how to use it properly right now therefore it can never be used properly.

I said never damn it!

I don't get /. Guy from MIT comes out with some cool tech and the response is "I don't see how that will work right now therefore it doesn't. EVAR!" But thanks for lecturing him on the properties of concrete. He's devised a way to print variable density concrete but I'm sure the basic features of concrete escape him.

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422764)

If this poster had spent a summer thinking about future possibilities instead of what has been done in the past, he would learn that he is being a negative nancy.

Seriously, you're dismissing out of hand something that has never been tried before based on what? The fact that you couldn't think of any way to make it work in the three minutes between reading the headline and posting your ridiculous comment?

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37424274)

I was thinking that foam or plastic could do the job with a weather proof shell on the outside.

Re:lack of real-world experience (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 3 years ago | (#37426150)

Comparing a flexible material like a palm tree to an absolutely rigid material like concrete is pure folly. Concrete structures don't bend under load. They crack and break.

They compare concrete columns to palm trees AND BONES... How flexible are bones, again?

Re:lack of real-world experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37426800)

This is just youthful exuberance and folly. It's meaningless. You won't ever see 3D printed buildings anymore than you'll see space colonies. More childish bullshit for the mentally crippled to drool over.

Stop with all the fancy shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422284)

and produce something that makes buildings! There are people around the world that need simple cheap structures and they're messing around with curves and varying density.

Re:Stop with all the fancy shit (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#37422374)

There is a renewable resource for the people who need simple and cheap structures. It's called "wood".

One can grow it to suit (for example the many "tree farms" in the US), and it doesn't require cement kilns and all the other expensive equipment required throughout the concrete production chain.

Re:Stop with all the fancy shit (1)

nschubach (922175) | about 3 years ago | (#37422428)

Well, If you could print out concrete sections faster than you can pour and wait for them to cure, with less human labor it may be cheaper to use an exotic construction method like printing.

Re:Stop with all the fancy shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422406)

I suspect 3D printing on this scale will be neither cheap nor simple for a very long time.

If you only do what can only be done with traditional methods, but at a higher cost, you'll never get anywhere and development will cease. You need new and innovative functionality to drive development, at least until the price drops to a point where doing "none fancy shit" makes sense.

Re:Stop with all the fancy shit (1)

digitalsolo (1175321) | about 3 years ago | (#37422452)

Do you really think that 3D printing is a better solution to that issue than, say, manual labor?

3D printing is intended for complex structures that are otherwise difficult/impossible . Not cinder brick shanties.

Re:Stop with all the fancy shit (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 3 years ago | (#37422760)

Cheap and simple structures have been developed for thousands of years, the world has cheap and simple structures down pat.

Tents, teepees, igloos, long houses, lean twos, tar paper shacks, wigwams, the list of cheap and simple structure designs goes on and on.

If there is to be any progress in structure designs then we want to go complex and expensive. And perhaps some technology that is developed for complex and expensive structures may just work their way down also to the cheap and simple designs.

decals? (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 3 years ago | (#37422286)

OK, this is all wonderful stuff, I suppose. But surely I'm not the only person who is taken aback by reading the article only to find such titles as "the Media Lab’s Sony Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences."

I still haven't got used to stadiums being named after corporations; it's a bit of a shock to see that assistant professors are now so named. Do they have to wear decals?

Give me a rep-rap over a corporation any day.

Terrafoam (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 3 years ago | (#37422322)

This is great! Lots and lots of cheap, usable housing for everyone!

Sounds like Terrafoam [] to me.

Re:Terrafoam (1)

Lifyre (960576) | about 3 years ago | (#37425802)

Very cool link. I started reading it to find out about Terrafoam and am now on Chapter 7... Thank you for sharing.

printing and sewing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422346)

I think it would be interesting to combine sewing (use of a loom) with 3-D printing. I could see on site fabrication of tall windmill towers using this method. and this idea is donated into the public domain.

Printing metal in-place is not going to work. (1)

default luser (529332) | about 3 years ago | (#37422398)

And the reality is concrete needs rebar to be strong and a support structure to be truly useful. ,a href="">These are the only people who have made printed 3D metal, and it has two caveats:

(1) Strong, but not as strong as forged metals.
(2) Has to be baked in an oven to transition from powder to solid metal.

So, not really interesting until hey solve the whole in-place metal printing problem. Right now all you can make is trinkets.

Re:Printing metal in-place is not going to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422826)

Why does it have to be baked in an oven? Why can't it just be sintered [] into place using lasers or a small automated plasma torch?

Re:Printing metal in-place is not going to work. (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about 3 years ago | (#37422998)

Progress is going to be made mostly by people who research and try new things, and very seldom by people who say "That'll never work! Myuh myuh myuh!"

Re:Printing metal in-place is not going to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37424212)

Would "printing" metal really be necessary for structural rebar? Why not just have a couple little robot arms welding precut ~1' sections or rebar as the structure progresses? Welds I believe are at the point where they are stronger than the metal around them. And welding robots are already a pretty common thing. Seems like a non-issue to me.

Re:Printing metal in-place is not going to work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37424744)

Not quite true.
"Selective laser sintering" has been used to make parts out of metal before. The machines are beasts - often size of rooms, and can easily cost into 7 figures.
They print 3D things out of metal all the time.

Nice Research , not very practical... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422494)

...considering that 90% residential housing is wood construction.
Even outside of New England (where I'm from), many houses are pre-fabbed in sections, dropped, and finished.
In new england, i frame houses from $3-5 sq/ft, so, the cost to pour (or build) a masonry wall will still be much more costly. The concrete is about $110/yard.

I have seen 'research' like this, and I always laugh because it is very obvious these researches have never built a house, let a lone a structure.
They are not attacking the high cost elements of a building a structure in their 'technology'

Irrelevant Example (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#37422500)

Tree trunks are indeed denser towards the outer region, but that's because they use the middle region to draw water. Perhaps he needs a more elegant example to sell his idea?

Re:Irrelevant Example (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422644)

The middle region is only used for support. It is less dense BECAUSE it has withdrawn the water.

A better example is bone. The central core is more like a foam structure providing cross bracing for a solid outer layer cylinder.

Like the CN Tower and slipforms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422604)

For the CN Tower in Toronto [] and other concrete structures the engineers use a relatively short concrete slipform [] , pour concrete in it, let it harden, shift it up a bit, pour another layer, and so on until the resulting structure is the right height. Along the way they can change the shape of the slipform slightly in each layer to get more complicated shapes. It allows them to build as fast as they can pour and let the concrete solidify.

Contour Crafting (1)

jeti (105266) | about 3 years ago | (#37422608)

Reminds me of the Contour Crafting [] I read about a few years ago. What happened to that?

Re:Contour Crafting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37422776)

I thought exactly the same thing - Contour Crafting was invented several years ago.

Re:Contour Crafting (1)

Geminii (954348) | about 3 years ago | (#37427282)

Short answer: Nobody wants an all-concrete house. Professor K is a great mechanical engineer, and the concrete printer did what it said on the tin, but at the end of the day it only printed out concrete.

(Source: I was an international rep for Contour Crafting for a while.)

I still think the idea's great - it just needs to be combined with printers/assemblers for other materials in order to not be relegated to a niche market of printing out driveways, ornamental walls, and statues.

ok i get it (1, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 3 years ago | (#37422680)

a dedicated subset of slashdotters think 3d printing is the salvation of all mankind. its not.
3d printing a building completely disregards the fact that buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes, wind, fire, flood, and a host of other
complex forces that even a cursory glance at your whimsical little makerbot will confirm do not in fact just stop existing because you learned
how to extrude hot plastic and layer it into fun little shapes. things like ventilation, plumbing, and electricity are hard enough without some
shitty graduate students wormscrew-driven toy factored into the equation. If you dont believe me, drive downtown and take a look at the sheer amount of
equipment and manpower required to erect a multi-story building. you'll spend two months just digging the foundation before your squeezy cheeze
manufacturing system is found to be completely incompatible with a marsh surface like chicago. Or start constructing only to realize your plastic extruded window
frames dont work with the arizona sun, causing every floor-to-ceiling glass inlay to explode under thermal expansion forces at about noon. or recoil in horror when
you find a crack at the corner of the building which should have stopped at 5" instead extends the length of the building and through the foundation.

Re:ok i get it (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | about 3 years ago | (#37422956)

What make you think that all those constraints cannot be taken into account?

Re:ok i get it (1)

jeti (105266) | about 3 years ago | (#37422966)

If you look at the Contour Crafting [] project, it basically prints the wall surfaces using a special concrete. They are used like a formwork and later get filled with standard concrete. You could add other materials like steel cables. As a plus, the printed surface has a very nice finish that you can leave just as it is. You can also print holes right into the wall instead of drilling them afterwards.

I don't think the contour crafting project will ever be built at full scale, but the idea is IMO not doomed from the start.

Re:ok i get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423074)

I have seen the person from Contour Crafting lecture numerous times, and as a person who teaches Architectural Engineering, he has not taken into account constructability to say nothing of structural, performative, social, labor, political, material and other issues.

One thing I always tell my students - a building is neither 1) a single material or 2) a single element. A building is ALWAYS a number of elements of different materials assembled together. While I may be proven wrong, I have never seen a functioning building made of one continuous element of a single material. Perhaps a cave, but that is not human made.

Re:ok i get it (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 years ago | (#37427338)

Counterexample: an igloo.

Re:ok i get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423100)

Yeah, prefab buildings could NEVER work!

Re:ok i get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423416)

what a dick

Re:ok i get it (1)

fikx (704101) | about 3 years ago | (#37423712)

the end point of 3D printing is not all-one-piece items. It is intended to be able to create any structures or structures in one "print run" . Being able to create interesting one-piece structures is just a side effect of the building method that is showing to have some interesting potential.

Re:ok i get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423888)

Troll much? You don't seem to know the difference between "proof-of-concept research" and "practical tool to make a living with". You sound like someone afraid of being replaced by a small shell script.

I think 3D printing is simply a possible development of the "Replicator" of Star Trek fame. Our current level of technology would almost be impossible without the development of CNC machining to create parts, molds, tools, prototypes, etc.

Current CNC normally performs "subtractive" actions: cutting away. 3D printing is the opposite, it's "additive". By using a combination of both methods, and a variety of materials, you should be able to eventually make just about anything. I've even heard of researchers printing collagen as support matrix structures for growing cells and artificial organs.

3D printing is the "large economy size" of the promise of nano-tech construction. One of the many problems confronting the development of nano-tech construction is: getting the itty-bitty bots to where they're supposed to do their work. Enter the 3D printer as the delivery mechanism to at least get them into the neighborhood. Not to mention that not everything needs to be built an the nano-scale.

The current crop of CNC hobbyist are playing with home-made desktop gear, and experimenting in all kinds of non-economical and impractical ways that machine shops just can't afford to do. Much like the dawn of the computer industry.

Re:ok i get it (1)

hot soldering iron (800102) | about 3 years ago | (#37424340)

You sound like someone afraid of being replaced by a small shell script.

Prof. Neri Oxman (4, Funny)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 3 years ago | (#37422706)

I was thoroughly engaged with my "science and engineering mode" brain active while reading all of this information, that is until Prof. Neri Oxman appeared in the second video and my brain exploded. A quick google images search later and OMFG she's an effing supermodel.

I'm highly disappointed in my scumbag brain for such a base detour from a truly intellectual endeavor.

Re:Prof. Neri Oxman (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 3 years ago | (#37423094)

Holy Crap, you aren't exaggerating.

Re:Prof. Neri Oxman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423494)

Well, to be fair, she bases her career on exploiting her looks. She is the only Professor I know who has a dedicated publicist.

Oh it must be nice to have rich parents...

Re:Prof. Neri Oxman (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423518)

My "science and engineering mode" brain had all it's blood drained....

Re:Prof. Neri Oxman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423592)

My "science and engineering mode" brain had all it's blood drained...

Re:Prof. Neri Oxman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37427582)

Broke my attention span too!

A word about Neanderthals (1)

RonTheHurler (933160) | about 3 years ago | (#37423126)

Did you know that Neanderthals had bigger brains than we do?
Do you know why? Because they had a working memory!

"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to push 3-D printing technology even further. Their goals: create whole working machines and perhaps even buildings. Thus far, 3D printing has been used to make shapes of plastic or metal that can be assembled later. "

Right. How about this: [] -- printing structures on the moon. [] []

Functional Machines: [] []

The list goes on...

(And -- RIght-on Nimbius!)

Reminds me of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423370)

D-Shape [] I think there's been a few articles here about them a while back.

upload the new patch? (1)

bwnunnally (1744458) | about 3 years ago | (#37423406)

Also a self-monitoring and repairing capability for the building would be nice. Although I suppose it would be alarming if you got a message to reboot the building after NEW Building 3.0 was downloaded.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37423580)

"create whole working machines and perhaps even buildings."

So we should gather from this that creating working machines is easier than creating buildings using this technology? If this is the case I believe that the whole idea should be forgotten very soon...

Not true! (1)

dristoph (1207920) | about 3 years ago | (#37423896)

"Thus far, 3D printing has been used to make shapes of plastic or metal that can be assembled later."

This is incorrect. There is at least some 3D printing technology today which makes it possible to print at least basic mechanical parts with no assembly required. Here is a video demonstrating its use, printing a working crescent wrench (including the worm drive for adjusting the size of the grip): []

Amazing, no? That said, the idea of printing out variable-density concrete and applying the technology to large-scale structures is pretty amazing too.

Not new, in the end (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 3 years ago | (#37423946)

Thomas Edison built concrete houses in the early 20th century. []

Awful places. Damp. Cold in the winter. Just awful. Just because it was "printed" with concrete won't make it better. It'll still be a concrete house. Damp. Cold in the winter. Just awful.

Re:Not new, in the end (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37424244)

Okay I live in FL and most homes are concrete here. A lot of block but a growing number are cast.
You do not leave bare concrete and you do insulate them. My many of my schools where also CBS and they where not damp or cold.

What 's wrong with the old method.. (2)

formfeed (703859) | about 3 years ago | (#37424126)

..of enslaving the local population and having them cut granite to build monuments in your name?

3D on the nano (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | about 3 years ago | (#37424308)

The heck with concrete. I'll consider 3D printing tech truly accomplished when they can actually print using layers of silicon and carbon atoms, forming up molecular bonds in lattices and matrices as the structure is built. True, flawless stone reinforced by carbon nanotube meshes sealed by diamond!

Would that be more or less stronger than concrete and by how much?

One Itsy Bitsy Problem (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about 3 years ago | (#37424694)

While I think 3d printing has some real value and use I don't think this will work out unless there is a major breakthrough in the chemistry of it all.

The fastest curing concrete I know of that has any real strength is the stuff that CalTrans uses to fix big cracks in concrete roadbeds and it takes an hour.

Now the cool thing about the 3rd "printing" of most solids is that the material is in powder form and and a laser is used to fuse small amounts at a time and then build on that until you have the desired shape. Because you are subject only to the limitations of the lasers focusing ability and the supporting ability of the surrounding powdered material you can do very complex shapes.

Since the fasting curing concrete takes about an hour I can t see how trying to apply this technique is feasible. Concrete can only stacked so tall when it it in its uncured state before it slumps. Not only that but the actual cement has little if any structural strength. It is not until the cement is mixed with a material such as sand and gravel of various sizes that it gains strength from the material that it holds in a matrix and thus supporting itself.

Now concrete is great in compression loads but not so very damn good in shear loads, hence re-bar, pre-stressing etc.. So how could one possibly "print" down layers of cement. Also uncured cement does not bond very well to cured cement as anyone who has ever patched their cement driveway can tell you. I mean even if you had some way of way of making n number of water molecules transit through a matrix dry cement and aggregate to cause the curing reaction at a specified depth, how long would it take that to cure? I know various chemicals have been added to accelerate the process but this typically yields weaker concrete.


Re:One Itsy Bitsy Problem (1)

Geminii (954348) | about 3 years ago | (#37427292)

Concrete used to solidify faster, a century or so back. The industry actually changed standard formulations to get a slower-setting concrete because it was solidifying before the workers could get it into place.

Sounds like it might be time to dig up and dust off the old methods.

Re:One Itsy Bitsy Problem (1)

ResidentSourcerer (1011469) | about 3 years ago | (#37428166)

It depends on the pace and the pixel size. Obviously, the 'pixel' of concrete has to be larger than the largest aggregate. So you plop down 2" blobs of stiff concrete.

Slump of concrete varies with the stiffness of the mix. The machines that continuously cast curbs seem to be able to leave behind an 8" tall layer of concrete that is solid enough to cure.

So visualize a 'printer' that casts whatever wide by 6" tall layer at a time. Horizontal rebar is placed on top of a layer, and embedded on the next pass. Vertical rebar is held while the machine makes it's pass. Probably short lengths overlapping.

Such a printer would be more like 'turtle graphics' than like raster images.

It would work at a speed that allowed the previous layer to have started to set, but not cure, so that the next layer would bond to it, much like the continuous cast of a large dam is done.

At this point I don't see how to get clean breaks (door, window openings)

But visualize a simple machine that builds a concrete silo by going round and round, adding 6" every two hours.

Neat stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37427080)

Sounds like Star Trek replicator technology in it's early stages in real life. I wonder if they will ever come out with transparent aluminum.

This guy already does it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37427512)

"In a small shed on an industrial park near Pisa is a machine that can print buildings. The machine itself looks like a prototype for the automotive industry. Four columns independently support a frame with a single armature on it. Driven by CAD software installed on a dust-covered computer terminal, the armature moves just millimetres above a pile of sand, expressing a magnesium-based solution from hundreds of nozzles on its lower side. It makes four passes. The layer dries and Enrico Dini recalibrates the armature frame. The system deposits the sand and then inorganic binding ink. The exercise is repeated. The millennia-long process of laying down sedimentary rock is accelerated into a day. A building emerges. This machine could be used to construct anything. Dini wants to build a cathedral with it. Or houses on the moon." Blueprint Magazine, March 8 2010 -

Damn printer driver (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 3 years ago | (#37427652)

I bought some land in Albuquerque, and then I downloaded a torrent of a 3BR model home, but I can't get it to print in Adobe.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>