Emerging Objects 3D Prints Architectural Materials
Kyle Maxey posted on May 21, 2013 |

architecture, material, concrete, cement, polymer, suburb, customization

Oakland-based Emerging Objects isn’t your normal design firm. Rather than designing homes, interiors, furniture or products from common materials, the four-person group is trying to create materials for tomorrow’s 3D printed objects.

Self-described as a “a pioneering design and research company that specializes in designing and 3D printing objects for the built environment using custom materials and processes,” Emerging Objects is interested in creating sustainable, inexpensive 3D printed buildings, building components and interior accessories.

Currently the group has six materials, acrylic, wood, nylon, salt, paper and cement polymer. Of all of the materials that the company employs, the one that’s most obviously beneficial is, of course, its cement polymer.

Developed by Emerging Objects, the cement polymer material is a rigid concrete substrate that can be reinforced with fibers to make it stronger than traditional concrete. The material can also be finished with a sand blaster to create a range of textures from glossy to satin.

While we’ve seen claims that 3D printed houses are just over the horizon, I’m skeptical of that future. For one, I think that while labs like Emerging Objects are laying the foundations (pun intended) for a new building construction paradigm, there still seems to be a ton of research that needs to go into the materials themselves. I still don’t believe that anyone has tested the longevity of 3D printed concrete materials, or whether they’ll behave differently than traditional concrete.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen a scheme of how all of the other components that make up a modern home (wiring, plumbing, insulation, etc.) will fit into a 3D printed building project. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe 3D printing will only be employed to create the “shell” of a building. If that’s the case, then 3D printed homes may be just closer than I think.

architecture, material, concrete, cement, polymer, suburb, customizationBut for some reason the idea of 3D printed homes strikes me as counter to one of the most impressive aspects of the technology; it’s mass-customization. Some people may say that 3D printed homes will lead to a diversity of home designs, but I’m also skeptical about that opinion.

I image a future where homes are even more similar; where a mass manufacturing tradition will translate immediately to this new building paradigm. I think the evidence is already in front of us, particularly here in the US where identical suburbs can be seen from coast to coast. I’m doubtful that if given the opportunity, home buyers would like to sit down and customize their house. It’s a difficult and confusing task, and in an already busy world it’s not likely that 3D printing will lead to an explosion of individual architectural expression.

Image courtesy of Emerging Objects & Wikipedia

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