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3D Printing Hits the Beach

I’ve never had much in the way of artistic talent, beyond my writing (and some people might argue about that). As a kid I tried sketching, painting and sculpting, and the results were always what might optimistically be called impressionistic. Even my sand castles were as likely to cave in as they were to soar.

A new project from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and the Fab Lab BCN in Barcelona, Spain might convince me to head back to the beach. The two groups have collaborated to design a 3D printer they call Stone Spray that uses sand to build objet dart from sand or concrete.

Stone Spray 3D Printer

Stone Spray creates objects from sand using the 3D printing process. Courtesy of Stone Spray.

Stone Spray uses sand and a binder to cement it together, similar to the D-shape process. Although the printer has been used to create sand structures, the end goal was to create a system capable of building architecture using additive manufacturing (AM). In all, the project took six months to complete, which, I think, shows how quickly AM fundamental concepts can be tuned for specific applications.

As with other uses with AM, much of the desirability for adoption is the ability to create highly complex internal geometries with a single build. A 3D printed sand castle or larger piece of architecture can also be added to later in a way that will form a single structure. The bonding agent attaches without the need for additional bolts, screws, nails or rivets.

Even using sand, the objects created using Stone Spray were reported as “rock hard” and resistant to water. Even better, sand is pretty widely available as a building material, making it fairly simple for other groups to reproduce the project and advance the research.

It may occur to some of you to wonder how much actual use people could find for sand structures. Leaving aside the fact that the same procedure could use cement, the Sand Spray process could create temporary shelters for displaced survivors of natural disasters without requiring tons of building materials to be shipped into an area that could be hard to reach. While you might not want to permanently reside in an oversized sand castle, having a place to sleep out of the elements or quick fabrication of emergency medical centers could save lives.

Below you’ll find a video demonstration of the Stone Spray.

Sources: Stone Spray, SolidSmack

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About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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