A Robot That Turns Sand To Stone
August 7, 2012
With the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, extraterrestrial architecture might be the next (-next-next) step. A new project from Anna Kulik, Inder Shergill, and Petr Novikov, under the supervision of Marta Male Alemany, Jordi Portell and Miquel Lloveras of the IAAC, proposes to build sculptures and forms out of sand and dust. In effect, they have created a 3D printer on an architectural scale.
Sand is mixed with a binding agent and then sprayed by a robot arm directed by a designer or CNC pathing. The resulting form can be made structurally sound through the calculations of an algorithm and by letting the sprayed mixture harden around metal scaffolding. The researchers have been able to produce several prototypes, including a stool, but hope to work up to larger interventions, as seen in their rendering of a beach shelter. Then again, perhaps they aren’t thinking big enough; this project could lead to condos on the moon or, like, condos on Mars!
This is, perhaps, an area for critique of the project: what can you do with it? So far, all the resultant forms seem similar, and if so, then this project loses some of its attendant excitement. Again, there seems to be a lack of big dreams. A few years back, then-student Magnus Larsson proposed a project with a similar functionality, except that the mechanism for solidifying the sand was a certain type of bacteria which bound grains together. He envisioned a miles-long barrier in the Sahara to halt desertification, and to provide housing for thousands of people. With this in mind, perhaps the IAAC team should set their sights on something larger (and more culturally and socially substantive) than the beach.
Images: Stone Spray Project via designboom