In an effort to bridge the gap between designing and fabricating, students at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai have developed a 6-axis robotic 3D printer that they revealed at the Shanghai Summer Workshop “Digital Future.” The goal with this invention is to allow architects to realize their creations directly, quickly and precisely.
The students wanted to move away from the idea that 3D printing’s sole purpose is to reproduce human labor and make manufacturing more efficient and towards an idea of “Digital Craftsmanship” inspired by nature. The team emphasized that
By studying the material and structure performance of 3D form in nature, we figured out a way to incorporate biomimetic fabrication strategy into 3D printing process.
While the printer still uses ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), its fabrication method is different using 3 moveable printer heads and one fixed printer head to create a spindle-knot form inspired by spider webs. There is an integrated heater in each printer head that can be programmed separately to keep the temperature in the required range. Tubes are used to send compressed air to the printer heads to cool and harden the material. The difference that robotic 6-Axis 3D printing offers is its focus on the process, not simply the results.