For the next three months, visitors to the Chicago Cultural Center downtown will be greeted by a monolithic 13-foot rock formation installed as a part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. What looks at first to be a naturally eroded rock formation is actually made up of thousands of artificial rocks held together only by string. Even more impressive: Rock Print was tediously assembled by a very precise robot.
The project was a joint effort between Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, and the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT to test the capability of a 3-D printing process to create an intricate architectural structure using inexpensive materials. To build the rock formation, the team created an algorithm that guided a robotic arm through the process of laying down nearly five miles of recycled textile string in a geometrically complex pattern. The robot alternated the string with layers of a loose granular material (made by heating and expanding crushed glass), which are crammed together tightly so that they hold their shape.
While today’s commercially available 3-D printers aren’t yet suitable for building on an architectural scale, Rock Print aims to show the future possibilities of digital fabrication. Add to that a conceptual plan for a 3-D-printed house and a 3-D-printed room, and it looks like we’re edging closer and closer to that reality.
[via Design Boom]