In case you missed it… Incredible 3D printer could hold the key to a new Industrial Revolution

The wonders of modern technology have become even more wondrous with recent developments, and could even hold the key to cheaper housing and an end to the UK’s much publicised housing shortage.

Researchers in Austria have created a tiny replica of the Tower Bridge, the full size version of which currently straddles the Thames in London. The model is smaller than a grain of sand and, most importantly, was actually printed in 3D to form an almost perfect replica of the real thing.

The science is based around a ‘two-photon lithography’ to direct a laser via several mirrors through a liquid resin, leaving behind “a polymerized line of solid polymer”. In layman’s terms that means they printed the tower bridge, in extremely complex detail with total precision.

The potential of this is incredibly futuristic, with homeowners able to purchase the blue prints to a design, modify it in any way they like and send off the finished schematics to a rapid printer to create the whole thing in 3D, ready to be picked up in hours.

Experts are actually commenting that we are on the brink of another industrial revolution, a process so effective, in both practical and cost terms, that it could revolutionise the way we live and consume products.

The London-based studio BarberOsgerby, for example, uses 3D printing to make prototypes.

“It’s cost-effective, a tenth the cost of conventional tooling, and very fast,” Jay Osgerby commented. “It’s a great way to visualise complex forms like our Olympic Torch design, whose 8,000 perforations would have been difficult to replicate during model-making.”

Of most interest to readers of this newsletter, however, may be the technique’s application to building work.

In 2009, Fast Company reported on the invention of a prototype 3D printer large enough to print whole buildings. Using magnesium glue and sand, the printer produces a strange structure, reminiscent of a sci-fi movie prop. The magazine commented:

“Dini claims the d-shape process is four times faster than conventional building, [It] costs a third to a half as much as using Portland cement, creates little waste and is better for the environment.”

Taking it even further, the UK’s Loughborough University is now at the forefront of 3D printing development. Last year they developed a 3D printer that can produce architectural objects from concrete.

In the not too distant future we could be printing entire homes, in incredible detail and with perfect precision. The possibilities for the ailing construction industry, for Britain’s property undersupply and for future architectural designs are limitless.

SRJ/LCB

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