Preserving a Visionary’s Legacy in Carbondale with Emerging 3D Printing Technology


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Thad Heckman, architect of the Buckminster Fuller Dome Home Visitor Center, is seen taking a call from the Vice Chancellor of SIU to discuss the project’s current developments on December 15.

R. Buckminster Fuller was photographed inside his Geodesic dome home in Carbondale in 1971.

In February 2022, Buckminster Fuller’s dome home was located at the intersection of West Cherry and South Forest Streets in Carbondale.

Brian Annechino from Mighty Buildings and Architect Thad Heckman were seen having a conversation in the Buckminster Fuller Dome Visitor Center on December 15.

Workings installed a 3D printed panel at the Visitor Center and Bucky Dome Museum in Carbondale on December 15. These panels were transported fully finished from the factory in Monterrey, Mexico.

The Bucky Dome Home is visible across the street from the Visitor Center Museum which is currently under construction.

On December 15, Architect Thad Heckman and Mighty Building’s Brian Annechino observed the installation of a panel for the Bucky Dome Visitor Center.

A side view of the Visitor Center Bucky Dome Museum, recently erected, is presented. It is expected to be completed by next spring.

These panels are five times stronger than concrete and 30% lighter, manufactured by Mighty Buildings using the latest 3D printing technology.

In Carbondale, a visionary’s dream is being built into a home for the past with the help of a community, a company, and an architect.

Mighty Buildings, an innovative construction company that uses computer and robots to fabricate building materials, has partnered with The R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Not-For-Profit. Their joint mission is to construct a Visitor Center Museum adjacent to the Bucky Dome Home.

Brian Annechino, a sales and business executive for Mighty Buildings, explains about the material used in the buildings. “What you see on this building are the 3D printed wall panels. They are not made of concrete,” he says. “It’s a proprietary material composed of epoxy, resin, polymers, fiber, and recycled materials, making it a more sustainable building material than most of what’s available out there.”

The panels are created using automation and robotics at an offshore production facility based in Mexico, as reported by Annechino. This state-of-the-art facility can fabricate sufficient panels for a couple of hundred homes yearly.

“I firmly believe he’d be quite chuffed if he was present to witness this,” shared Annechino.

“Fuller was a pioneer in the field of sustainable architecture and spent his professional life dedicated to inventive and eco-friendly design,” commented Mighty Building’s Chris Murphy. “Our undertaking at the Dome Home, through the use of progressive 3D-printed panels and parametric designs, truly encapsulates his lasting innovative legacy – blending aesthetic appeal with functional efficiency. By fusing Fuller’s innovative concepts with our advanced construction technique, our goal is not just to preserve his remarkable vision, but to redevelop it to cater to imminent demands of sustainable architecture.”

R. Buckminster Fuller was more than just an architect. His profile also includes a futurist, humanist, philosophical philanthropist, all driven by his vision to serve humanity with his gifted intellect. He was also the global president of Mensa International, the leading IQ society worldwide. Fuller leveraged his intellectual ability for societal advancement through scientific upgradation.

Fuller, renowned for his uniqueness and intellect, was known for his concept of ephemeralization. This philosophy involved striving to accomplish “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing”. His geodesic dome home is a practical embodiment of his innovative thinking.

The dome home offered various benefits. Its triangle patterned surface gave it strength, stability and the spherical roof presented the maximum volume with the minimal surface area. Fuller personally resided in this dome home in Carbondale for almost a decade, as an adjacent resident to the Visitor Center.

The Bucky Dome was constructed in 1960 and amazingly, it took only a single day to assemble it from a kit. In modern context, the Visitor Center is trailblazing Fuller’s philosophy, employing minimal waste and time in the construction of living and working spaces.

What is particularly noticeable about the Visitor Center is that, although it does not resemble the dome home, it mirrors its aesthetic triangularity. This simultaneous novel and reminiscent design creates a harmonious balance.

“I’d questioned Mighty Buildings just in the Zoom call, ‘Look, I’d love to do some special panels that speaks to the geometry. Two weeks later, they came up with this design,” shared Thad Heckman, architect behind the Bucky Dome Visitor Center.

The strictly modern style of the Visitor Center structure, according to Heckman, is nearly the mirror opposite of the Dome Home, providing a wonderful contrast, particularly when the sunlight throws distinct shadows on the façade.

“A major plus with 3D printing is not just its agility but also the freedom of what you can create,” added Annechino. “The triangular geometry was brainstormed in partnership with the Buckminster Fuller team, along with our design team and architects at Mighty Buildings, in order to establish a link between the Buckminster Fuller Dome Home and the Visitor Center.”

The panels are a product of 3D printing, a cutting-edge technology that employs robotics and automation to produce weather-proof, fully prepared panels awaiting installation once reaching the job site. Out of the 36 printed panels for the Visitor Center, there will be eight panels featuring a triangular design.

The Visitor Center project is a multifaceted endeavor, with numerous entities collaborating to keep the legacy of Bucky thriving.

“Synergy is a term that comes to my mind. Initiating a project of this magnitude doesn’t just need an innovator or a nonprofit organization. It calls for collective efforts, right from the conceptualization, design, drawings, and realization of the project, which was possible through our research and development, our product, our engineers, our assembly team, who brainstormed on how this could be made possible,” commented Annechino.

Despite all the collaboration, a vision can never materialize without the requisite monetary backing. Heckman mentions that although Mighty Buildings has generously offered the Bucky Foundation a significant discount on construction expenses, the project is still in dire need of financial aid.

“We’re taking it one day at a time and gauging how things progress,” said Heckman. “Our aim is the solar eclipse.”

Those wishing to support the Bucky Fuller Dome Home Visitor Center can do so at the R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Not-For-Profit website: Bucky Fuller Dome Home Preservation Project – RBF Dome NFP.

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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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