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Massive printer builds 3D structures with sand

Posting in Architecture

Engineer Enrico Dini has a 3D printer that uses sand and glue to make your CAD drawings into a 3D sand structure. (Video)

My colleague Andrew Nusca wrote about the new HP Designjet 3D printers, which allow users to print out 3D models of their designs right from their desktop computers. Besides the fact that they are amazing, HP has just shipped its first-ever 3D printer to customers.

Italian inventor Enrico Dini thinks bigger than that — he has designed a printer that can print 3D buildings with sand. Through the d_shape building process, sand and an organic binder is used to create huge structures. Unlike HP's printers, Dini's D-shape printer is not ready for the market just yet.

Think about how you build sandcastles when you are at the beach. Basically, that's how the D-shape printer works — but it also uses glue to hold the sand together. The D-shape printer sprays a layer of sand and then glues each layer with a magnesium-based binder that shoots out from hundreds of nozzles.

And the printer continues layering the sand until the desired structure emerges:

  • Think of a building and design the structure with CAD software.
  • Print the structure and expect a resolution of 25 dpi.
  • The building is as strong as marble.
  • It can make curves or hollow columns. It can make pretty much any shape you can build a sandcastle. Imagine.
  • Dini has future lunar plan to build moon bases using moon dust. The European Space Agency is interested, actually.
  • And of course, it is environmentally friendly. The printer leaves behind little waste.
  • And even better, it can build a structure four times faster than traditional methods.

While it might be a while before you start building your own structures from your personal 3D printer, it's fun to think about what you might build.

I would build a sand tent. And then build an Einstein structure to accompany it.

I know, that's random.

And to top it off, I don't know what Dini is saying here because the video is in Italian. But it's still interesting to watch anyway:

On a smaller (and more practical) scale, this is how a 3D printer could help people build architectural models:

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure