Machine Design

3D printing with soil

Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
The Stone Spray

In a research project, architects at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Spain employ an on-site fabrication robot that uses soil as the main building material to create edifices such as scaled-down towers and arches. A robot dubbed the Stone Spray mixes soil with a solidifier and sprays it on surfaces to create the structures. Stone Spray can construct intricate solid structures at almost any location.

Stone Spray works much like a 3D printer, making objects by buildingup layers of material. The device’s mechanical arm sprays the mixture from a nozzle. Once the material dries, the resulting object resembles a chunk of corral but is said to be as strong as concrete.

Interestingly, the robot can build in almost any direction, creating multidirectional arcs and even building out from vertical surfaces. Designs that can’t stand on their own during production are built around a wire framework.

Because the process for making and drying structures takes several hours, Stone Spray is currently limited to smaller designs. With further development, the group envisions that full-sized, usable structures (even bridges) could be constructed from scratch using materials from the local environment. Should the current concept be expanded on, constructing buildings in the future could be as simple as having an architect upload designs to a machine for building.

Stone Spray currently needs little energy to operate and could be run with solar power to make it even more eco-friendly.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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