Keeping a Visionary’s Legacy Alive: The Role of 3D Printing Tech in Carbondale


Thad Heckman, the architect of the Buckminster Fuller Dome Home Visitor Center, recently had a conversation with the Vice Chancellor of SIU to discuss the development of the project on December 15.

In CARBONDALE, a coalition comprising a community, a company, and an architect is pooling their talents and resources to construct a home for preserving the past and signalling towards the future, a testament to a visionary’s dream.

The R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Not-For-Profit has formed an alliance with Mighty Buildings, an advanced construction firm that produces building materials using technology such as computers and robots. The collaboration aims to raise a Visitor Center Museum adjacent to the Bucky Dome Home.

Brian Annechino, a sales and business executive at Mighty Buildings, described the structures in the project. He stated, “What one observes on this building are the 3D printed wall panels that aren’t made from concrete. Instead, they’re created from a unique material blend that includes epoxy, resin, polymers, fiber, and recycled materials. This combination creates a more sustainable building material than most other alternatives in existence.”

The panels are created using robotics and automation at an offsite production facility in Mexico. According to Annechino, this facility has the capability to generate enough panels for the construction of two to three hundred houses annually.

Annechino expressed his estimations that if the former himself could witness this, he would feel immensely proud.

A photograph of R. Buckminster Fuller inside his unique Geodesic dome home in Carbondale taken in 1971 was shown.

Mighty Building’s Chris Murphy spoke about Fuller, describing him as a visionary in the field of sustainable architecture who dedicated his career to innovative and environment-friendly design. He said, “Our project at the Dome Home uses advanced 3D printed panels and parametric design, reflecting Fuller’s legacy of merging aesthetic beauty with function efficiency. By incorporating Fuller’s revolutionary ideas into our cutting-edge construction technology, we are not only preserving his vision but also adapting it to the sustainability needs of the future.”

R. Buckminster Fuller was more than just an architect. He was a futurist, a humanist, a philosopher, and a philanthropist who utilized his intellect to benefit humanity. He held the position of World President at Mensa International, the highest IQ society worldwide, and was devoted to enhancing society through technological advancements.

The dome home of Buckminster Fuller, found at the convergence of West Cherry and South Forest Streets in Carbondale, was still standing as of February 2022.

Fuller, known for his brilliant eccentricity, designed various items with the concept of ephemeralization – striving to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing.” The geodesic dome home is a testament to this notion.

The dome home had several benefits. Due to its weight, it was strong and the surface’s triangular pattern provided a stable structure. Moreover, a spherical roof yields maximum volume with minimal surface area. Fuller resided in this dome home in Carbondale for eleven years, with his house being adjacent to the Visitor Center while at SIU.

Mighty Building’s Brian Annechino and Architect Thad Heckman engage in discussion at the Buckminster Fuller Dome Visitor Center on December 15.

The Bucky Dome, set up in 1960, required merely one day to construct from a standard kit. Fast-tracking to the present, the Visitor Center embodies Fuller’s principles with minimal waste and expedited time for constructing liveable and adaptable structures.

The Visitor Center’s design, remarkably different from the dome home yet reflecting its aesthetic triangularity, creates a harmonious blend of resemblance and distinction.

Workers install a 3D printed panel at the Visitor Center and Bucky Dome Museum in Carbondale on December 15. The panels are delivered to the site entirely finalized from the factory located in Montery, Mexico.

Thad Heckman, the architect of the Bucky Dome Visitor Center, said, “In a Zoom call with Mighty Buildings, I expressed my desire for accent panels which would reflect the geometry. Just two weeks after, they came up with the design.”

The architectural style of the mid-twentieth century noticeable in the Visitor Center, Heckman explained, is almost the direct polar opposite shape of the Dome Home. This creates a striking dichotomy, particularly when sunlight throws intense shadows on the façade.

The Bucky Dome Home, situated across the street, can be seen via the Visitor Center Museum which is presently being constructed.

Anton Annechino made a point about the benefits of 3D printing, saying, “The versatility and dynamism of the creations are not the only advantages of 3D printing. The unique triangular design was a product of a joint effort between our designers and architects at Mighty Buildings and the Buckminster Fuller team. The goal was to draw a parallel between the Buckminster Fuller Dome Home and the Visitor Center.”

The creative process involves 3D printing, a pioneering technology that employs robots and sophisticated automation to generate weatherproof, ready-to-install panels once delivered to the construction site. Among the 36 printed panels for the Visitor Center, eight are expected to feature a triangular architectural design.

Architect Thad Heckman in tandem with Mighty Building’s representative, Brian Annechino, oversaw the panel installation for the Bucky Dome Visitor Center on December 15.

Maintaining Bucky’s vision for the Visitor Center project demands a harmonious collaboration between various individuals and groups, each playing their unique roles.

Annechino expressed his thoughts, “The term that depicts our approach is synergy. Assembling a project of this magnitude doesn’t merely need an innovative mind or a nonprofit organization. It necessitates collective responsibility spanning design, concept realization, R&D, product management, engineering, and assembly team to decipher how we can ingeniously build this.”

All the collaboration in the world won’t realize a vision without the necessary material backing. Heckman suggests that Mighty Buildings has been enormously generous by giving the Bucky Foundation a great discount on construction expenses, but it still requires financial support.

Recently, the Visitor Center Bucky Dome Museum was erected and is expected to be finished by the coming spring.

“We’re going with the flow. We’ll watch how it pans out,” Heckman expressed. “The target is the eclipse.”

Those who’d like to support the Bucky Fuller Dome Home Visitor Center can do so here.

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