Massive printer builds 3D structures with sand

Engineer Enrico Dini has a 3D printer that uses sand and glue to make your CAD drawings into a 3D sand structure. (Video)

My colleague Andrew Nusca wrote about the new HP Designjet 3D printers , which allow users to print out 3D models of their designs right from their desktop computers. Besides the fact that they are amazing, HP has just shipped its first-ever 3D printer to customers.

Italian inventor Enrico Dini thinks bigger than that — he has designed a printer that can print 3D buildings with sand. Through the d_shape building process, sand and an organic binder is used to create huge structures. Unlike HP's printers, Dini's D-shape printer is not ready for the market just yet.

Think about how you build sandcastles when you are at the beach. Basically, that's how the D-shape printer works — but it also uses glue to hold the sand together. The D-shape printer sprays a layer of sand and then glues each layer with a magnesium-based binder that shoots out from hundreds of nozzles.

And the printer continues layering the sand until the desired structure emerges:

  • Think of a building and design the structure with CAD software.
  • Print the structure and expect a resolution of 25 dpi.
  • The building is as strong as marble.
  • It can make curves or hollow columns. It can make pretty much any shape you can build a sandcastle. Imagine.
  • Dini has future lunar plan to build moon bases using moon dust. The European Space Agency is interested, actually.
  • And of course, it is environmentally friendly. The printer leaves behind little waste.
  • And even better, it can build a structure four times faster than traditional methods.

While it might be a while before you start building your own structures from your personal 3D printer, it's fun to think about what you might build.

I would build a sand tent. And then build an Einstein structure to accompany it.

I know, that's random.

And to top it off, I don't know what Dini is saying here because the video is in Italian. But it's still interesting to watch anyway:

On a smaller (and more practical) scale, this is how a 3D printer could help people build architectural models:

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