Radiolaria is designed by Shiro Studio architects, and it’s a pretty cool free-form structure that will act as a pavilion. But perhaps the coolest thing about it is that its designer is using the worlds largest rapid-prototyping tool to print out test versions.
The 3-by-3-by-3-meter prototype buildings are helping in the design of the final 10-meter structure that will be built in Pontedera, Italy next year. They’re fabricated using a 3-D stereolithic printer built by D-Shape that’s called the “first large scale” one of its type. It prints the structures using artificial sandstone which is sand or mineral dust glued together by an inorganic binder–it works pretty much like any powder-based RP system, just on an incredibly large scale. A CAD model is fed to the CAM computer which controls a massive scanning rig, this sprays binder onto successive layers of sand, 5mm to 10mm at a time, building a detailed pattern that corresponds to the contours of the building.
Any excess sand acts to support the shapes while they’re being fabricated and can be re-used for other models. The resulting artificial stone has some of the same characteristics as Portland cement, an in some cases exceeds it. This means that Andrea Morgante, who designed the Radiolaria pavilion, could fashion it without needing any iron reinforcements in the structure, and adopt unusual shape that would otherwise be impossible.
D-Shape’s system is key to this building, and it’s a measure of how far rapid prototyping has come, from the days of small, fragile plastic models to self-building RP systems like the reprap project. Is it also the first step on the road to actual rapid-construction of real full-scale buildings, Futurama-style? We’d like to think so, since there’s no particular reason you couldn’t scale up the technology.