Advancing Technology in the AEC Industry: 3D Printed Masonry Wall

3D printed masonry wall

3D printing has made revolutionary advances in the AEC industry through its cost-effective and cost-effective solutions. 3D printing is also known as an additive technology. It began as a technique for erecting assorted objects and is now actively used to create three-dimensional spatial enclosures. The technology uses materials such as plastics, composites and biomaterials as a medium. These media are stacked in layers to build walls and spatial structures. An example of 3D printing technology is the construction of HIVE, a 3D printed masonry wall. This technological intervention pivots the role of art and craft in the genre of building construction. The HIVE is therefore a perfect fusion of traditional materials, advanced geometry and robotic precision.

3D printed masonry wall

Design

This parametric structure was built in 2021 by a team from the University of Waterloo in Canada. It was designed as a privacy wall in the office. HIVE has earned iconic status due to its honeycomb imagery and the technology employed. This is a perfect example where art meets technology and aesthetics meets functionality. This composition of 3D printed hexagonal units acts as an aesthetic backdrop or accent wall. It also segregates the space, thus creating a private experience at the other end. The structuring of the individual units makes it even more of a provocative experience by allowing light and acoustic access, while creating a partial visual barrier.

Additionally, the aggregation of the 3D printed hexagonal units helps to evenly distribute the load, making the wall structurally and materially efficient. The window formed in the wall through the opening and closing patterns of the hexagonal units adds a sense of play. The play of light and shadow adds to this, thus defining a distinct atmosphere. Therefore, HIVE not only divides and segregates space, but also unites space and spatial experience as a whole.

3D printed masonry wall

design development

Reportedly Canada’s first 3D printed masonry wall, this 3D printed wall is a product developed from a rigorous process. Therefore, it is the result of a complex methodology, which includes testing various materials, various design formulations and implementing multiple manufacturing processes to reach the final goal.

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Thus, a new design language was established through traditional ceramic craftsmanship coupled with advanced robotic technology. The process of developing this design has thus opened up, offering new avenues for material expression and geometric complexity in the genres of architecture and design. The development aimed to experiment with traditional materials to create resistant and durable innovations. Therefore, HIVE lays the foundation for the concept of ‘digital craft’ as a construction process, using traditional materials and images in the modern context.

The process

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that shapes three-dimensional objects from a digital file in the system. These are essentially files with profile cross section details. Therefore, the printer uses the media and overlays the cross sections on top of each other to derive the shape of the profile in real time and real scale.

Thus, the digital archive of a modular unit of The HIVE was created and the cross-sectional details were developed. Additionally, clay was used in the construction to take advantage of the malleability and fluidity of the material, which was required to mold the units into the desired hexagonal shape. Additionally, robotic machinery erected the digital profile through cut clay layers.

The result

A 3D printed masonry wall of dimensions 2.3m x 5.4m! The team then carried out research to test mock-ups at different scales. This led them to formulate a geometry of computationally designed units to ensure the feasibility of the structure.

All in all

Constructed through a geometric compilation of triangular units, comprising four 3D printed hexagonal units each, The HIVE stands strong not only as a semi-open, permeable wall, but also as a work of art, a work of digital aesthetics and craft.

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