The Man Behind the World’s Largest 3D Printer
February 16, 2012
Enrico Dini wants to print houses in the Italian countryside and moon bases for the European Spaces Agency. He wants to solidify a desert sand dune and supply the spires and columns to complete the Sagrada Família. But what he wants even more is to legitimize and standardize 3D printing as a building technology–a massive endeavor which has consumed his life. That’s the story behind “The Man Who Prints Houses“, a new documentary that “delves into the troubled mind of a genius intent on changing the world forever.” Dini, a former roboticist-turned-engineer and designer, has made his name with his developments in 3D printing, work best encapsulated by his great invention, D-Shape–the largest printer in the world which Dini built from scratch. Aside from its daunting size, the most important innovation behind D-Shape lies in its printing technique, which alternately spreads and stacks layers of sand and binding materials to make instant sandstone that Dini says is more durable than concrete and does not require steel reinforcements.
Innovation, however, comes at a price. Dini’s personal life has been uprooted by the gambles he has taken on his business. A series of investments meant to see the project through disappeared when the crash beckoned in 2008, forcing Dini to rebuild his entire enterprise. He would become divorced and left estranged from his son in the process. All the more reason, then, to make sure he realized his life’s work. Towards that end, Dini has worked with architects like Norman Foster, administrators, and contractors to develop prototypes and carry out test trials that has produced, among other things, the world’s largest printed structure (below). As for the Sagrada Família, he still has some time to make his case.