by T Mackenzie
The machines and processes that will change everything tomorrow are more than ever being built in your own community. Makerspaces, repair cafes, fablabs, transition clubs, democratic schools and permaculture workshops are just a few of the spaces where it’s happening, and mostly people are using freely available tools, knowledge, and equipment.
Machines Available for Sale
These are extrusion-based 3d printers that can be used in large-scale automated construction, available for sale or being used to make buildings for sale to a global market. There’s something here for many different projects, climates, and budgets. Some of them are open-source, almost all of them use simple publicly available knowledge and equipment, and some use proprietary materials.
California, Erectorbot: Open-source 3d printer with a large, fast, adaptable extruder which prints filament or converts pellets of various materials on the fly on a giant scalable print area up to 20 x 30 x 10 feet. A standard cartesian model.
Russia, Apis-cor: Using a very sturdy looking polar printer that extrudes from a pivoting central arm, this Russian-American collaboration has a radius of 6.5 meters on the ground and the company have printed this fabulous 132 m2 round yellow house in 1 day, which is among the fastest print time claims in the world. They are offering machine kits for sale, and then they provide a recipe or additives to local concrete producers to allow for quick-drying concrete prints.
South-Carolina, Branch Tech: An architectural firm, they have a scara model on rails that makes particular use of newly identified complex geometries to build skeletal wall structures. Not for sale. They did a design contest 2 years ago to get a house built with their machine, but no other news on a finished building. A really beautiful set of designs is showcased on their site.
Amsterdam, 3D Print Canal House: A group of architects have built a large cartesian model and are working on making solid bio-plastic structural elements for assembly and tests on site. They are also testing other eco-materials for printing. Speed seems a main challenge, and they added a second machine to their projects last year. They invite collaborations.
China, Winsun and other companies: The first to 3d print houses, the controversial Winsun company does not sell nor make public their processes and concrete recipes. They do however sell the mixture, and concrete structures to municipalities in the middle-east. Chinese competitors to Winsun have also emerged, particularly in Shanghai and the northern provinces, working on a variety of processes.
Other groups have made announcements, but are not ready to go to market at this time. Some are controversial.
Should you be on this list? Let us know!
Multi-nationals: Stratasys, Makerbot, 3D Systems : These are the larger companies in 3d printing that will likely have an interest in this scale. Expect to see them working with the companies that suit their needs and interests in order to take market share on machine sales.
Montreal, Print Our Home : A non-profit group in Montreal, Canada, looking to make sustainable, healthy 3d printed homes available to everyone. Focusing on processes using local and standard eco-materials.
Italy, DeltaWasp: An Italian giant delta model, this machine uses clay on site to build. They appear to be in the final stages of research, and from their mission would seem likely to be open-source.
USA: Contour Crafting: A company in California working with NASA to create a healthy and strong concrete and concrete additives for FDM construction and space applications.
Saskatchewan? … if you’re working on this stuff in Canada, we’ve heard of you but can’t find you online.
Get in touch, if you’d care to work together.
Glossary and Links
technologies at 3dprinting.com. Some related
Extrusion / Fused Deposition Modelling: Thin layers of material are heated and laid out on a surface, then additional layers are added on top of the first to fuse and strengthen together into a detailed sculpture. We can extrude hundreds of materials, from concrete, wood, and metal, to plastic, food, and clothing. Even living cells.
Complex geometries: Researchers are using 3d printing’s capacity to deliver complex shapes for little or no added effort to create super-strong 3d geometries.
Printer types as per all3dp.com, and some related terms:
- Cartesian: Typically a cube shape, uses x, y, z coordinates and a movable bed
- Delta: Cylinder with a fast extruder in the center.
- Polar: Uses polar coordinates, and a circular, spinning bed.
- Scara: A multi-jointed robot arm with a very small footprint, often runs on rails.
Materials, according to 3dprintingindustry.com, and some related terms:
- Filament: Extrusion material in long thin threads on spools, to be fed into extruders, which process and deposit them on the print surface.
- Pellets: Extrusion material provided in pellets, such as metal alloys or plastic composites.
- Additives: In concrete, meant to increase drying times without compromising strength. May be publicly known or a trade secret.
A note on the media and 3d printing:
Everything is changing very quickly, including a huge reduction in newsroom budgets and a big increase in promotional spending by many small, medium, and mega-large organizations. Take everything with the critical eye it merits, and look to your local maker and repair communities for inspiration on tomorrow’s products.
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