From the Ground Up: New Architecture Technology

31. December 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

As real estate continues to recover from the collapse in 2008, those who aren't incredibly rich struggle to find residences that are affordable yet spacious. In response to this, architects have been using new technology to experiment with building designs that are as functional as they are eye-catching.

Space-making Software

One of the drawbacks of using computers to design living spaces is their inability to factor in human comfort. How can programmers get people to believe that a computerized design could just as easily have come from human hands?

colorful computerized architectural design
Image via Gizmodo.

Miguel Nóbrega, recently a grad student at UCLA, created Superficie with the intention of giving the cold, calculating design of coded blueprints a more human touch. Using CNC markers that are standard for blueprint artists, the program designs geometrically functional residences in ways that are remarkably human. Nóbrega's groundbreaking program demonstrates that even a machine can account for personal needs.

Breaking the Mold

It's said that a true innovator can look at seemingly unremarkable things and see limitless possibilities. But the real question is always whether the innovator will create something that is actually useful and not simply creative. It was that challenge which Finnish designer Janne Kyttanen decided face head-on when he created his 3D-printed furniture.

3D-printed table
Image via designboom.

Kyttanen's inventions were influenced by naturally occurring elements and forces, from rock formations to volcanic eruptions. He has even used volcanic obsidian to create coffee tables, trays, and stools. "If we're able to use explosion-welding to join materials that wouldn't naturally fuse together," Kyttanen says, "what would happen if we could control this force digitally? What kind of hybrid matter could we create?"

Warm Hearth

Our ability to create shelters of our own is one of the most intriguing human instincts. While we've come a long way from dwelling in mud huts and caves, our perennial need to paint the walls and keep our loved ones near remains. As the way that homes are built changes with technological advancements, our ability to make them uniquely ours stays ever the same.

Building your own LEGO Land

For more than sixty years, LEGOs have allowed children all over the world to create worlds of their own. Although most sets come with a predetermined set of specs to follow, much of the fun lies in veering away from those designs. You might start out making a fire station and wind up constructing a small fortress. Or you might begin with a mansion and then add on propellers. The appeal of LEGOs has always been that the possibilities are endless. What begins as a simple pile of bricks can easily turn into a complex work of art. Wouldn't it be great if you could create life-size things with LEGOs? It used to be a dream, but now it's one step closer to becoming reality. The following stories are about how professionals use LEGOs and 3D printing to create real-world designs.

Building a City

Many factors have to be considered in urban planning: location, population, environmental concerns, potential growth. In addition to those factors, planners must consider the design area. Architects want their buildings to be aesthetically pleasing in addition to being functional. The difficulty lies in getting a clear idea of the visuals from a static set of blueprints. That's where LEGO comes in.

lego city
Image via City Lab

At the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a new public display allows Boston residents to shape a city as they see fit. MIT's display features a 3D projection of the city laid out on an interactive board. Citizens then use LEGO pieces to shape an area of the city, to which the projection automatically adjusts itself. This allows Boston citizens to see very quickly how construction proposals would positively or negatively affect the city.

According to Chris Zegras, professor of Transportation and Urban Planning at MIT, the purpose of the project is to bridge the gap between city planners and the average citizen. "Our ultimate objective is this idea of co-creation," explains Zegras. "Having producers and consumers work intimately together in the production of a good creates a better good. We would like that to happen in how we produce 21st-century transit systems."

Happy Camper

When kids create LEGO automobiles, they're usually variations of the cars their parents drive or re-creations of vehicles from films and television shows they've watched. Whatever the design, both parents and kids wish they could build their own vehicle and take it for a test drive. At the recent Motorhome and Caravan Show in the United Kingdom, one such vehicle really was taken out on the road.

lego camper
Image via Guinness World Records

One of the highlights of the show was the display of life-sized caravan camper built from 215,158 LEGO pieces, setting a Guinness World Record for the largest caravan built with interlocking bricks. The camper was built over 12 weeks, and required more than a thousand man hours. As impressive as it is in design, what really sets the camper apart is that it's fully functional. It features a sink with running water, a working refrigerator, and even a bed, among other amenities. The camper will next be shown alongside its real-life counterpart at BRICK, a British LEGO fan event, in late October, before being displayed in London in early December.

Did you play with LEGOs as a kid? How about as an adult? Share your stories in the comments below!

Home Is What You Make It

13. August 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

We've mentioned before that 3D printing is revolutionizing home construction. The technology has freed architects from the restraints of a building's size and shape, and given those constructing buildings a wider range of reliable materials. But it's important not to forget everything that goes into a home. Here are a few ways innovators are looking to improve and exploit 3D printer technology in the home.

Table Topped

Lukas Oehmigen grew up behind the Iron Curtain learning that there were no such things as personal possessions. He also thought that architecture needed to be cold and sterile, prioritizing rudimentary functionality over eye-catching design. But once the budding young architect made his way to art school in the West, he was finally able to combine his practicality with a newfound sense of style. He also discovered a new state-of-the-art technology.


BigRep ONE Timeplapse from BigRep Fullscale 3D Printer on Vimeo.

Oehmigen and a crew of architects created the BigRep, a large scale 3D printer designed to print entire pieces of furniture. As shown in the video above, the BigRep creates entire furniture pieces from its large-scale maker, and emphasizes environmentally friendly materials that cut down on waste. The process of using a BigRep is far from perfect, with the average piece taking as long as five days to print completely. Still, Oehmigen is confident that his machine can one day be used in large-scale construction of cars and houses. "These probably won't look like your ordinary car or house, though," he warns.

Lock and Key

The art of picking locks and forging access to restricted areas extends back nearly as far as human civilization itself. The difficult process of trying to break in hasn't stopped potential burglars from trying. Unfortunately, the world's fastest-growing technology has made their jobs easier. Two researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that allows anyone in the world to make 3D printed copies of "Do Not Duplicate" keys.

Although the researchers claim that the purpose of the publicly available  app, named Keyforge, is to prove the ineffectiveness of traditional locks, it allows any key to be copied with any consumer 3D printer. No statements have yet been made by law enforcement regarding the app, but the research paper can be read in full at the site linked to above. As with the debate over 3D printed firearms, the debate over 3D printed keys proves that technological advances will always be accompanied by serious ethical questions.

High Tech Art and Architecture

23. July 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

It’s been said that no man-made work of art will ever stand up to the wonders of nature. For all of humanity’s masterpieces of paint and brush, they pale in comparison to the average sunset or leaves blowing on the branch of a tree. But even if human beings can never match nature’s splendor, they can still use it to create stunning works of their own.

1 + 1 = Breathtaking

The world’s greatest minds agree that mathematics are the only true universal language and that all things, no matter how complex or diverse, can be broken down into a series of numbers. It should then come as no surprise that a new breed of artist has emerged using only numbers in their palette.

binary-Mona-Lisa-Bill-Cook.gif
(via Wired)

In a recent feature, Wired highlighted five such digital artists who use only mathematical algorithms to create their work. They included Andrea Hawksley, who forms geometric designs into clothing and food; Pat Ashforth, who creates optical illusions in fabrics; and Robert Bosch, whose algorithm recreated the Mona Lisa as a single-line binary maze. Just as the universe is comprised of numbers, it was inevitable that the Internet – a system created entirely from numbers – would eventually produce a new artistic medium.

Super Sand Castles

Although summer is starting to wind down, there’s still time to hit the beach. But if you had any thoughts about entering a sand castle competition, you’d better hope you aren’t going up against Calvin Seibert.

Seibert-sand-castle.png
(via mental_floss)

The son of a former ski champion, Seibert has been creating complex sand architecture all over the United States. The designs can take anywhere from eight to ten hours to build, but have drawn favorable comparisons to ancient Mayan architecture. Even though the pieces never stay up for long, they’ve won Seibert a loyal fanbase of intrigued beachgoers.

Pleasing to the Eye

Chris Downey always wanted to be an architect, and when he grew up he built a fine career in the field. But, in 2008, he was told he had a brain tumor. Although the tumor was successfully removed through surgery, it cost Downey his sight. It was assumed that his architectural career was over, but Downey had no intention of giving up his livelihood.

With the help of an inTACT Sketchpad, Downey was back at work within a month. He has since gone on to create several San Francisco buildings, including the Independent Living Resource Center and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is one of a growing number of blind architects around the world. In Downey’s own words, "I’m always careful to say I’m without sight, not without vision."

A Bridge to the Future

18. June 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Nature and technology are often seen as two contradicting forces whose collision is a sure sign of a changing world. This can be for better (technology discovers new medicines to fight natural illnesses and diseases) or for worse (deforestation displaces wildlife and destroys the ecosystem), but once it’s done, there’s often no going back. What symbol better represents both progression and the combination of two disparate entities more than a bridge?

Build Your Own Bridge

Dutch designer Jorish Laarman has big plans for Amsterdam. His research and development company, MX3D, has spent the last few years thinking up some of the most outlandish-yet-realistic uses for 3-D printing. And their latest plan is their most ambitious yet. They want to construct a 3-D printed bridge over an Amsterdam canal.

But this isn’t the usual case of people assembling a bunch of 3-D printed parts. No, Laarman and his team intend to leave all the work to a few robots. These robots will both create and construct the entire bridge mid-air, starting at one end of the canal and moving to the other.

Although the project still needs approval and the selection of a specific canal, Laarman expects to begin around September of this year. He says “This bridge will show how 3D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form. The symbolism of the bridge is a beautiful metaphor to connect the technology of the future with the old city, in a way that brings out the best of both worlds.”

MX3D-3-D-printed-bridge.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

What 3D-printed construction projects would you like to see in the future? Let us know in the comments.

A Home of Our Own

4. June 2015 12:21 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It’s said that when one ignores the past, they’re doomed to repeat it. Others learn of history and push ahead with their plans all the same. It’s hard to say which of these scenarios is more likely to be responsible for the current US housing crisis, but it definitely smacks of a repeating pattern. Maybe it’s a residual effect of the market crash of 2008, maybe it’s an inevitable effect of young people suddenly finding themselves flush with income, or maybe it’s a combination both and more. The only thing known for sure is that people need affordable homes.

Fortunately, modern technology is offering a few solutions to the problem.

Man-Made Material

When one is in need of a home, two pressing concerns will be time and money. Unfortunately, a lack of the two isn’t likely to get you very far, especially if you’re trying to build your home from the ground-up. That’s what was on the mind of USC professor Behrokh Khoshnevis when he put his industrial and engineering skills to work. Khoshnevis designed an automated construction system that uses 3-D printer technology to create an entire 2,500-sq. ft. home in roughly 20 hours.

With 3-D computer models and concrete-based materials, Khoshnevis’ system maintains the human element in terms of its design, but drops it at the construction stage.

Contour-Crafting.jpg
(via Engineering.com)

Fixed Pieces

And that design process is crucial in the creation of a domicile for human inhabitants. It isn’t simply a concern of location and materials used, but also layout and design. With that in mind, architect Damien Murtagh decided to turn the 3-D designs he built on his PC into physical models he could assemble by hand. He created the Arckit modeling kit for structural designers to create practical designs they could put their hands on. The project has proven so popular that Murtagh has begun considering selling Arckits in children’s toy stores.

Arckit.png
(via mental_floss)

No matter where you lay your head, these new 3D printing technologies could help you get there faster in the future.

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