In the last year we have been working around the clock to develop and build a 3D printer for the construction site: the Pixelstone printer. It prints facades composed of small cubic bricks. The bricks, in different colors and nuances, are mixed and printed as 3D pixels. Please vist Pixelstone.nl for more information about our new startup!

The bricks are redesigned to fit through a hose and can be pumped to a printhead. The Pixelstones are oriented and placed by a printhead. Our prototype in action:

Besides sleek facades, Pixelstones enables rich and complicated facades. Printed with different colors, patterns, images, reliefs, ornaments, window frames; everything you can imagine. The architect gets total control of every pixel in a facade.

The goal of Pixelstone is to bring a new kind of craftsmanship to builders and architects. The timeless quality of brick in a new appearance for a new era. Also in an environmentally friendly way: compared to a standard brick the pixelstones requires 90% less energy a kg to produce, simply because of the size and the very short fire time.

The first application of the print technology will be producing prefab insulating facades. The next step: printing entire constructions.

We have just completed our latest project for DeltaSync (specialized in floating urbanization):  a printed lightweight and very energy efficient façade. Printing with a high resolution made it possible to integrate piping, window frames and even insulation. High-resolution printing allows for the integration of construction, all types of piping, window frames (and such), and even thermal insulation in one material.

Reinventing insulation
Common insulation materials like mineral wool doesn’t add strength to the building. The printed wall has an outer and inner shell of 4 millimeter with a honeycomb structure in between. This honeycomb structure not only gives the façade it’s necessary strength and stiffness, but has fine insulating properties as well. In fact the insulating performance of this printed façade is superior to that of a conventional façade using mineral wool. Furthermore the geometry of honeycomb structure can be tweaked to benefit even more of the 3D printing possibilities.

 

Heating, cooling and ventilation
Complex parts, such as piping and installations can be easily integrated in the façade with 3D printing. The integration of heating, cooling, ventilation and electrics in building construction can be dramatically improved.

The future
While it’s probably still a decade or so away before high resolution 3D printers will take over the building industry, the experiment already shows it’s huge potential. Eventually 3D printed buildings will not only outperform conventional buildings but they will be cheaper and faster to build as well.

Bram was recently interviewed by BouwKennis. BouwKennis is a Dutch knowledge and network partner for the construction industry. The theme of this edition is the impact of 3D printing in the construction industry. Please click on the image below to open the article. (Dutch article)

FullSizeRender

The example below shows the power of 3D printing. We developed a connection system for 3D printed elements. Inside a  product, we printed a plug and a counterpart with a spring system. It is impossible to produce this by conventional methods. The connector enables us to connect small 3D printed elements into a larger whole.

Designing isolation material with 3d printing technologies? This may seem ridicule, but it is indeed very promising. Conventional isolation materials, like mineral wool, are a kind of chaotic mesh. With 3D printing we are able to design optimized structures. To prevent loss of heat by convection, radiation and transmission we are developing isolation panels that will be tested by a specialized research institute. The picture below shows a very simple, but strong example.

When products are too large to produce on one printer they can be digitally split in smaller printable parts. A strong and reliable adhesive is essential to put the items together. In cooperation with Henkel we are testing different adhesives suitable for gluing the bio plastic PLA. PLA is a plastic commonly used printing material because its excellent properties. The adhesives will be tested under extreme conditions in the lab of Henkel. In some cases an alternative for gluing is to weld the PLA. We’ve done some experiments on welding PLA, with promising results.

For our client DeltaSync we are designing a 3D printed facade structure for a floating building. We will develop two full-scale facade elements; a load-bearing and a non-load-bearing element. The facade structures have printed isolation, integrated ventilation and tubing. The facades are subjected to a thermal, mechanical and acoustic analysis.