Our idea is simple. We want to create a system where the design plans for a building can be directly printed out in full scale.
To do this, we have been working to develop the necessary hardware and software.
Our robot is designed to print out walls layer by layer while using the wall itself as a path. Because it ejects geopolymer while running on top of the wall, there is little restriction on the shape and height of the architecture. It’s basically a geopolymer emitting mini Zamboni that runs on top of walls.
Using 3D printing in architecture is not itself a novel idea. There are other groups that are making machines that can print out walls. What makes our robot special is that it does not need any support structures. Most 3D printers used in architecture are either the robotic arm type or the claw machine type. Both types need additional structures to support the nozzle, and therefore have limitations on the size of the products they can print out. Our system can print out walls of virtually any size. This also comes in handy when working in small confined areas (such as the neighborhoods of Tokyo) because we don’t need a large working space.
Mentioned above, our system uses a substance called geopolymer instead of cement. The reason for this is because we needed a material that would not dry and harden before we intended it to. Geopolymer only hardens when a sufficient amount of heat is applied, which means that we can be sure that it doesn’t clog up our tubes.
Geopolymer is also strong, in some cases even stronger than typical concrete. This is important because we intend our system to be used to build structures with new shapes and designs.
It is also important to note that geopolymer emits 80% less carbon dioxide during its production compared to concrete. Its main ingredient is fly ash, a type of waste produced at coal-fired power plants.