Building Materials for 3-D Printing

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 206 (Hynes Convention Center)
Ronald Rael, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
3D printed architecture has the ability to transcend the way that buildings are made today. 3D printers allow architects to be material morphologists. They expand our ability to construct because they open the door for us to test material, form and structure simultaneously and instantly. 3D printing is a sustainable method of manufacture and can take advantage of local and ecological material resources. In an era of throw away consumerism and over consumption, excessive energy use, too much waste, and toxic materials, architects have a responsibility to the public, and the planet, to change our mindset about what our buildings are made of, how they function, and to inform the manufacturing processes used to construct architecture.

This research challenges the status quo of rapid prototyping materials by introducing new possibilities for digital materiality. In this scenario it is not solely the computational aspects that have potential for material transformation but also the design of the material itself. Because of the nature of these materials, they can be sourced locally (salt, ceramic, sand), come from recycled sources (paper, rubber), and are by products of industrial manufacturing (wood, coffee flour, grape skins); this would situate them within the realm of “natural building materials”. However, the expansive and nascent potential of these traditional materials, when coupled with additive manufacturing, offers unnatural possibilities such as the ability to be formed with no formwork, to have translucency where there was none before, extremely high structural capabilities and the potential for water absorption and storage, the materials that we all know as natural building materials are now unnatural building materials.