Exploring the possibilities of generative design for 3D printed buildings: Rethinking Construction


I’ve been pondering a revolutionary concept for designing 3D printed buildings that has the potential to truly transform the way we live and work. But before we dive into that, let’s take a moment to consider the evolution of 3D design tools for mechanical parts.

Initially, engineers made use of the same tools that were used for conventional designs. Back then, there wasn’t much available specifically for engineers working with 3D printing. However, as time went on, CAD software started incorporating features that catered to 3D printing, leading to an improvement in design experiences. And then something called “generative design” emerged, completely changing the game. Unlike the traditional CAD tools that built up objects piece by piece, generative software allowed for the growth of geometry through iterations.

In generative systems, the designer simply sets constraints such as fixed points, forces encountered, and gravity. Once these constraints are established, the system autonomously generates designs that ultimately converge on a 3D model that meets all the objectives. This approach often results in designs that are highly complex and unconventional. However, while these designs might prove challenging for conventional manufacturing techniques, they pose no issue for 3D printers. Generative design truly harnesses the capabilities of this technology.

Now, let’s shift our focus to construction 3D printing. In recent years, there has been a surge in the development of what I refer to as “construction 3D printers” – robotic devices equipped with toolheads that extrude specialized concrete materials. These machines, inspired by desktop FFF 3D printers, can rapidly construct large concrete structures outdoors. This advancement is undeniably impressive, but there is one glaring issue: the designs of these buildings often lack the distinctive characteristics indicative of 3D printing. It seems that, for various reasons, most construction 3D printed buildings adhere to conventional designs.

Perhaps this adherence to traditional design is driven by the need to appeal to potential buyers in the future. After all, individuals looking to purchase a home might be disinclined to invest in a peculiar-looking building. However, I believe that the problem runs deeper than mere sales strategy. My suspicion is that the existing building design tools are insufficient in harnessing the full potential of this technology, much like how older CAD tools failed to optimize the geometric possibilities of 3D printing.

This brings me to an intriguing proposition: the development of a generative CAD tool specifically tailored for building design. This hypothetical tool would function in a similar manner to existing generative design software – the designer would input a set of constraints and objectives, and the system would iterate through various possibilities to gradually evolve a 3D solution. Of course, the constraints in this case would differ significantly from those found in generative systems for mechanical parts. Instead, considerations like pathway dimensions, footprint area, plumbing conduit requirements, insulative properties, and disabled access would take precedence.

While the factors might vary, the underlying process would remain the same: the software would generate random variations and iterate until a feasible solution materializes. Objectives could revolve around cost optimization, preservation of specified exterior dimensions, or adherence to predetermined building heights. If such software were to exist, it would undoubtedly produce unconventional and exceptional building designs – all of which would be printable using current construction 3D printers.

It’s possible that these generated designs may not immediately appeal to the general public. If that were the case, it would not signify a failure of the approach, but rather a need for additional constraints. As far as I know, there is currently no software available that caters specifically to this purpose. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that it should exist. The continued growth of construction 3D printing relies on such a tool.

Share this post if you agree that the future of construction 3D printing lies in the development of generative CAD tools tailored to building design.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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Meet the mastermind behind NozzleNerds.com: GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.


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