Company pioneering new types of material for 3-D printer 'ink'

May 20, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

( —Emerging Objects, a San Francisco based fabrication studio, is pioneering the use of new kinds of material for use as an "ink" with 3-D printers. To date, their materials are based on wood, salt, paper, cement, nylon and acrylic. Launched and run by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, the aim of the company is to develop material for the creation of 3-D buildings, building parts, and interior accessories using natural or renewable components.

3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing because of the nature of the process, is a relatively new science. A liquid material is applied to a base, allowed to dry, then applied again, over and over, resulting in the creation of a three-dimensional object. To date, most advancements in the field have centered around the printer—Emerging Objects is instead focusing on the material that is used as the ink.

As noted on Rael and San Fratello's website, plastic, the standard ink used as a base material for 3-D printers, is both limiting and environmentally unfriendly. Other materials, they say, allow for the creation of objects that look and feel different, and don't pollute. One example is acrylic—objects printed using it as a base are brittle and rigid, similar to glass, but also have a smooth, powdery feel. Perhaps more exciting are printed objects that look like they are made out of wood. The base material is wood pulp, but because of the 3-D layering process, the resulting materials have a natural-grain appearance.

The company points out that because their are made from natural local components, they cost much less than plastic. For example, they've printed objects made mostly of salt obtained from nearby San Francisco Bay. In addition, the size of the printed objects using the is limited only by the size of the . The team is currently working on printing a room-sized object that, because it will be made mostly of salt, will look like it's made out of milk.

The objects being produced by Emerging Objects offer a glimpse of the exciting future of 3-D printing technology. At this point, it's possible to imagine giant printers one day laying down new houses or skyscrapers, or even on-demand machines in our homes that conjure almost any object we desire—much like the replicator of Star Trek fame, perhaps?

Explore further: BotObjects announces first full color 3D printer— ProDesk3D

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User comments : 8

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1 / 5 (2) May 20, 2013
Instead of layer by layer printing.....Why Not multiple layers at a time? When there are similar layers needed as per programming....alternate layering system should take over..........until change is again needed!

Going Round & Round multiple Downright Stupid!
1 / 5 (2) May 20, 2013
Printing a room-sized object? Very Interesting. Scaling it up to Building size Object will be needed more , I suppose.

1 / 5 (2) May 20, 2013
Spray a layer and another layer over it by the alternate system. Avoid Going Round & Round when not needed.
1 / 5 (3) May 20, 2013
Do they think the readers are too dumb to know that acrylics are plastics? Or perhaps they didn't think we would know what ABS is, so they dumbed it down and put plastic.
Either way- not appreciated; don't need spoon feeding ta.
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2013
The excellent thing about this is that you could potentially gather your own materials without having to pay. If building with salt is possible, sand should be too.
not rated yet May 21, 2013
Building a building: I see a kind of framework assembled on site (basically building the printer on site), around the area to be printed, and let er rip... as each floor is built, a floor frame is added to raise the printer to the next level to print the next floor. You would have to have multiple heads/materials to print with though... material for walls, conductive material for power lines, and material that can withstand high pressure for plumbing. You could develop your home in autocad or something and send it to the engineers to fine tune it for stress and whatnot, and have your home printed on site.
1 / 5 (2) May 21, 2013
As described by d3bug all of that can be done by Computer Programming which uses better Brain than that of Humans (of course, surprisingly enough, all of that done by Humans again).
not rated yet May 26, 2013
If building with salt is possible, sand should be too.

Already been demonstrated:
(and it's solar powered, you wouldn't even have to buy the amps off your local energy monpolist)

and material that can withstand high pressure for plumbing

I'd expect the first types to simply leave hollows and easy access routes to where cables/plumbing will go in post. You could also print the covers for these hollows, so that it's merely a snap-in process after laying down the cables/pipes.

But printing pipes is actually in the cards. Most pipes are PVC anyhow - and if you print them as hollows into a solid structure (rather than using pipes) then that is a pretty much indestructable setup and will last you the lieftime of the house..

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