Unique, one-of-a-kind building components, generated quickly and economically from advanced 3-dimensional modeling software – until now this promise of 3D printing was unfulfilled. Conventional 3D printing served as an expensive prototyping process, important as a design tool but falling short in production. However, this year the San Francisco Bay Area firm Rael San Fratello Architects has initiated a fundamental shift.
Through research Assistant Professor Ronald Rael conducts at the University of California Berkeley, the firm has developed a cement-based polymer and a new process that,for the first time, employs conventional rapid prototyping hardware to produce strong and durable building components that cost far less than conventional rapid prototyping materials—up to 90% less than comparable powder printing materials. The material can also reach strengths of up to 4,700psi in compression. This advancement in material output from digital modeling software ushers in a new era in building materials, and a new synthesis of design and production.
The SeatSlug, a biomorphic interpretation of a bench, demonstrates how this new digital output process generates end-product structural building components directly from 3D software models. The design is inspired by flabellina goddardi, the newest species of sea slugs discovered in California in 2010, and by the infinite tessellations of Japanese karakusa patterns. It is constructed of 230 unique rapid-manufactured components.
The sinuous form, subtle translucency and glossy finish engage viewers with a memorable aesthetic experience—a tactile personal encounter with a technological breakthrough.
Project Date: 2011
Project Location: San Francisco, CA
Design Team: Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Emily Licht, Nick Buccelli, Kent Wilson.
Project Information: Rael San Fratello Architects thanks the following individuals and organizations for their knowledge, support and assistance: Dr. Mark Ganter (Solheim Additive Manufacturing Laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department on the University of Washington), Artist Ehren Tool, Professor Richard Shaw (Berkeley), The Department of Art Practice at The University of California Berkeley, The Hellman Family Fund, Professor Claudia Ostertag (Berkeley), Luxology.