Back in January, World’s Advanced Saving Project (or WASP) demonstrated their tiny dwelling prototype 3D printed from locally available mud. And, this time around, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design in collaboration with Ronald Rael (co-founder of Emerging Objects), has continued to showcase the practicality of 3D printing in architecture with their ‘sculptural’ building fabircared from powdered cement. Boasting of a volume of 1,296 cubic ft (with 108 sq ft area), the pavilion is aptly christened as the ‘Bloom’ with its bevy of intricate floral perforations. And beyond artistic aesthetics, the Bloom pavilion serves as a benchmark for engineering with its composition of a whopping 840 custom-printed blocks – all crafted from Portland cement polymer that is devoid of any iron-oxide.
These figures do produce a wondrous result that is touted as the – ‘first and largest powder-based 3D printed cement structure built to date.’ But beyond superlatives, the Bloom pavilion does differ from comparable 3D printed designs in its use of powdered cement. To that end, in a conventional scope of 3D printing (in architecture), the cement is kept wet and then extruded out of a nozzle to create a structure in a layer-by-layer manner. This technique certainly imparts durability to the resultant sturdiness, but the hardiness in achieved in favor of an imprecisely finished design.
On the other hand, the Bloom pavilion epitomizes preciseness in scale and form, by virtue of its high-resolution bricks. This ambit of accuracy was fueled by eleven 3D Systems printers that were worked on for a year to achieve the desired result – created from powdered cement, along with polymers and fibers. As Rael made it clear –
While there are a handful of people currently experimenting with printing 3D architecture, only a few are looking at 3D printing with cement-based materials, and all are extruding wet cement through a nozzle to produce rough panels. We are mixing polymers with cement and fibers to produce very strong, lightweight, high-resolution parts on readily available equipment. It’s a very precise, yet frugal technique. This project is the genesis of a realistic, marketable process with the potential to transform the way we think about building a structure.
Interestingly, the Bloom pavilion is all set to be completely dismantled – with its modules expected to be sent to Thailand for further display in a full assembly. And then, the glorious 3D printed design will make its global debut on a worldwide tour.