3D printing on a much larger scale

The end goal of this giant rapid prototyping machine is to print buildings. We’re not holding our breath for a brand new Flintstones-esque abode, but their whimsical suggesting of printed buildings on the moon seems like science fiction with potential. The machine operates similar to a RepRap but instead of plastic parts, it prints stone by binding sand with epoxy. This method is not revolutionary, but hasn’t really been seen in applications larger than a square meter or so. It’s fun to see the things we dabble in heading for industrial production applications.

[Thanks Juan]

Comments

  1. lowlysoundtech says:

    Very cool. I’m sure it’s very far off, but I love the idea of every household having a smaller unit than this, but bigger than a traditional reprap. Use it to make furniture, dinnerware, cubicle walls etc……

    Or I could be completely wrong :)

  2. Mikey says:

    I imagine the furniture would be a little more than uncomfortable, and the dinnerware… different.

    Though it does seem like it would be awesome to have.

  3. grovenstien says:

    this is very awsome! Really want to build a 3D printer of some sort. Ive got loads of stepper from intelligent lighting fixtures but no idea hole to control them simply, other than using the DMX board in the light, any ideas?

  4. lowlysoundtech says:

    @groovenstien – I’m working on building my own LED movers from some old stepper motors and some RGB LEDS. I’ve been using an arduino for right now, until I can actually get the thing built, then I’ll use a different type of microcontroller to run the thing. To control the stepper, you’ll need to know how many coils/wires it has and you’ll need either an H-Bridge or possibly a Darlington Array. I’d be more than happy to answer some questions for ya, just drop me an email at tonytuba(at)aim(dot)com. I’m also curious what lights those steppers came out of :)

  5. grovenstien says:

    @lowlysoundtech Yep i have a couple of darlington arrays after crossing some wires on flying leads! Steppers are mostly 4 wire some are six, they came from 1 Genius Motor Spot, 1 showtech polar scan and the other one i cant remember.

  6. aegis3d says:

    Hmm, i get this error in chrome:

    Warning: Visiting this site may harm your computer!
    The website at http://www.blueprintmagazine.co.uk contains elements from the site iasitvlife.ro, which appears to host malware – software that can hurt your computer or otherwise operate without your consent. Just visiting a site that contains malware can infect your computer.

  7. Jeff says:

    Nice, Chrome throws a malicious site warning when I attempt to load it.

    When are people going to learn that advertising networks are a huge security risk?

  8. lowlysoundtech says:

    @groovenstien – the 4 wire is more than likely a 2 coil motor and u’ll need an H-Bridge, the 6 wire could be 2 coil, but with separate power ins. Here’s a great page with lots of examples of circuits and even some code for various microcontrollers.

    http://www.tigoe.net/pcomp/code/category/arduinowiring/51

    Definitely read the opening section regarding IDing your stepper because that 6 wire could also be a unipolor stepper. Shoot me an email if you got any other questions so we can keep the comment trolls at bay. :)

  9. walt says:

    not sure why they would use something like this to make fluid, sinuous objects.
    kinda’ defeats the point of having such precision.

  10. nave.notnilc says:

    @Jeff
    when they don’t need money to support their sites :P

  11. adamziegler says:

    Even larger 3D printer (no relation): http://www.zieglercat.com/TechCenter/gps/

  12. taylor says:

    Interesting idea – using this to build structures on the moon. Kind of makes sense, since doing manual labor on the moon would be pretty tough. It would have to be proven to be pretty sturdy though!

    And @walt – fluid structures make sense for this kind of device, since they are more difficult to do with traditional methods. Anyone can make a rectangular shed, but the benefit of these devices is that they can make more interesting shapes!
    -Taylor

  13. taylor says:

    Hey, i just realized – since this guy is using sand as his base medium – what about using a laser to fuse the sand into glass? That is probably not as easy as it sounds i guess, or else we’d have seen it… right?

    Anyone know?
    -Taylor

  14. tehgringe says:

    @grovenstien – where are you getting the spare DMX lights from? I’m curious because I’ve been looking at sources of salvageable stepper motors…

  15. localroger says:

    @Taylor — google “selective laser sintering” (SLS).

  16. lowlysoundtech says:

    @tehgringe – I got some 12v steppers from a local surplus shop here in Chicago, but if I do make a legit reprap, I’d rather get brand new ones.

  17. I love stuff like this, but would rather see them work with standard cement rather than special epoxies which are more likely to be expensive. Also, as far a moon structured go, I tend to like the idea of inflatable, aramid (kevlar-like materials), lunar buildings/space stations. They’re massively lighter than solid construction solutions. If you need thicker walls for things like radiation shielding, you just design them with a large space between double walls and fill the space with loose lunar fill (or build them in a deep hole like an impact crater.

  18. Jeff says:

    @nave.notnilc I have no problem with them having advertisements, but they need to figure out ways to ensure those ads are not malware. It kind of defeats the purpose of having ads if no one goes to your site because your browser detects malware.

  19. tehgringe says:

    @lowlysoundtech – agreed. I am really starting out in this area, so would really use this to build a working concept that would probably just about “cut cheese” – then I would begin the spending.

    So far my best source of parts has been from printers and scanners but these a baby ones.

  20. Forgot to mention, the inflatable buildings for lunar bases and space stations are being developed by Nasa and Bigelow Aaerospace. The most interesting, in the short term, being Bigelow’s efforts. The company’s founder is the owner/founder of one of the biggest chains of hotels in the US. His primary goal for his space station designs are to create a commercially owned and operated orbital hotel in the next few decades. He’s already launched scale sized prototypes and will be launching a full-sized prototype soon.

  21. lowlysoundtech says:

    @colecoman – any links on this, would love to research.

  22. @lowlysoundtech: Sorry about that, should have put a little more effort in to provide some links. Here’s one to an article on Nasa’s effort to design an inflatable building system for a moon base:

    http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1057

    Here’s a link to the Bigelow Aerospace web site:

    http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

  23. Jeff says:

    I’m curious if this will lead to stronger infrastructures of buildings – if you can print some sort of network of support beams otherwise impossible in normal structures?

    On a different scale… would this revolutionize how small towns/villages are built?

  24. mrgoogfan says:

    holy crap!

  25. taylor says:

    @localroger
    Yeah, I’m aware of SLS, I just hadn’t seen it done with glass. Given how cheap sand is, I just kinda wondered if it could be used for SLS. I didn’t see any results really on using glass for that.
    -Taylor

  26. Haku says:

    One interesting offshoot of having a fullsize house/building “3D printed” is that you could also do a perfect scale-accurate dollhouse sized version without much trouble.

  27. grovensien says:

    @tehgringe ebay :P intelligent dmx fixtures

  28. localroger says:

    @Taylor the wikipedia article on SLS mentions glass as one of the typical SLS materials. I think the main problem would be making sure the glass absorbs the laser energy and heats up to sintering temperature. Might be more of a problem with sand than with glass powder (sand is actually crystalline, and at micro scale has lots of flat surfaces and is surprisingly clear.)

  29. localroger says:

    Now that I’m thinking about it, I am wondering if you couldn’t use a refractory source of super hot air and use it to sinter the sand like a much higher temperature version of CandyFab.

  30. Anonymous says:

    ****… I was thinking of that…

  31. AskJacob says:

    Ad for glass, what is currently going on is the traditional 3D printing with an organic binder mixed with the glass powder (think powdered sugar/cornstarch etc) – the liquid ink makes the binder “glue” the glass particles together.

    Then the item is removed from the printer and fired in a kiln to fuse it. The biggest hurdle is slumping and the ~25% shrinkage that occurs (which can be catered for, but needs research to fine tune).

    Lots about it here: http://open3dp.me.washington.edu/?p=20

    and they have an open source approach to the materials and research! yay!

  32. Oren Beck says:

    The various Solid Print tech paths all have their situational Pro/Con points. Scaling factors interacting differently for material/technology choices will make some projects truly Non-Trivial to design. That is, till we climb a horridly non linear learning curve. The path from RepStrap to printing whole houses will be damned interesting. And likely potentially disruptive to several economic niches. A formless curb caster can make a house from concrete slurry cast into stacked “Rings” right now with only minor hacking of the gear.

    Some of us grew up reading SF stories where a “Matter Duplicator” turned stuff like Martian sand into fully furnished houses complete with stocked freezers. And of course- a home model duplicator with 2 sets of charged batteries :)

    I’d settle for spraycrete over robotically laser welded rebar today.

  33. localroger says:

    @AskJacob thanks for that link, very intersting and not quite what I expected.

  34. alex says:

    google crome didnt like the link to the blueprint webpage. Said it contained malware and the such. Anyone else get that?

  35. lowlysoundtech says:

    I could be way off here, but, regarding the SLS idea…..

    can you fire a laser in space or in an atmosphere with no air? Does it need oxygen or nitrogen to burn?

  36. Utopiah says:

    their http://www.d-shape.com/ totally sounds like http://rockprinter.com/ to me, a mention of it would have been nice, I guess.

  37. James says:

    The idea was already introduced in ~2004:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4764-robot-builder-could-print-houses.html

    Only I think they were using a large 6 axis robot with a spraying head.

  38. Iv says:

    @lowlysoundtech : printing furniture is actually a very good idea. This is the first time I write about an actually possibly profitable production for a 3D printing machine : it can be customized a lot, doesn’t need much articulated part neither various different materials. Is there a material that is printable and sturdy enough for this usage ?

  39. @James: thanks for that link, I was digging through all my bookmarks/history to find it. I think that technology holds more promise for architecture, as it doesn’t require you to clean up the support structure (sand) afterward. I suspect the technology mentioned in this blog post will be more useful for art than architecture.

  40. MRE says:

    Im surprised that I am the first person to mention that this machine could make some really wicked playground equipment structures. have geeks lost their ‘child heart?’

  41. captain says:

    the beginning of the industrial replicator.

    It is amazing to see this actually happen.

  42. tehgringe says:

    @grovensien – ah, I see my Google powers are failing me once again – cheers.

    Out of interest do you happen to have any of the model numbers/part numbers for one of the steppers you salvaged. I want to compare the datasheet for it against the stuff I have got to see if it is worth picking up some old DMX lights.

  43. lowlysoundtech says:

    @MRE – Or even better yet…. adult sized playground equipment!

    @lv – I’ve been playing around with Shapelock lately, which is essentially a thermoplastic with a rather low state change temperature. It’s great for prototyping and it’s rather cheap and surprisingly fun to play. Check it out.

  44. draeath says:

    @alex,

    Yes, we did – and if you had read the comments you would have seen the resulting discussion.

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