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A Robot That Prints Buildings Out Of Sand And Soil

Why build a house, when you can print one?

Four architecture students in Spain have developed a robotic 3-D printer that’s designed to magically turn dirt into chairs, walls, and even full-blown bridges.

Anna Kulik, Inder Prakash, Singh Shergill, and Petr Novikov, of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, worked with electronic and mechanical engineers to create Stone Spray, a one-off robot that takes sand or soil, adds a special binding agent, then spews out a fully formed architectural object of the designers’ choosing. “The shape of the resulting object is created in 3-D CAD software and then transferred to the robot, defining its movements,” Novikov tells Co.Design. “So the designer has the full control of the shape.”

So far, all the prototypes–which include miniature stools and sculptures–are just 20 inches long, about the size of a newborn. “But we are planning on increasing the sizes of the objects to architectural scale,” Novikov says.

If successful, the robot could represent a big leap forward in the field of sustainable design. Growing a structure from the earth at your feet circumvents one of the most resource-intensive aspects of architecture: the construction process. Let’s just hope the binding agent on that bridge is really, really strong.

[Images courtesy of Petr Novikov]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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