D-Shape

About The Company

D-Shape is a well-known name, and certainly one of the first known technologies that focused on 3D construction printing. The printer uses a binder jetting technology (described further below), and is currently the single available company providing printers of this type. Using a large gantry structure to move, the printer creates an alternative type of concrete by selectively applying a liquid binder on top of layers of powder material consisting of a cement-sand blend. Where the binder is applied, the powder material solidifies, while the remaining unbound material remains as a support for the solidified parts.

The printer allows to print 3D models directly from file into concrete-like shapes with a high degree of form freedom. These shapes are not only extremely difficult or even impossible to obtain with any other traditional construction technology, but are very often a great challenge also for other types of 3D Printing technologies. On the other hand, directly printing buildings with this technology is very slow due to the need for removal of large quantities of support material. The technology is therefore well suited for the production of unique pieces and parts, whereas it is deemed less suitable for direct fabrication of conventional buildings. The D-Shape 3D printer is probably best suited for off-site prefabrication of various highly complex construction elements.

The company’s first attempts with an epoxy resin based 3D printer go back in 2006, while the first version

of the current magnesia cement based system were invented in 2008. The technology quickly gained large media attention, and firmly established itself as one of the first construction scale printers in the world. All the D-Shape machines were invented by its chairman, Enrico Dini, who is also the owner of its patents, with the help of his brother Riccardo Dini. The two have been running the Dinitech company ever since, and have participated in many different projects across the globe, along with strong names in the architectural world and construction industry such as Foster+Partners or the Royal BAM Group. The D-Shape technology has also recently been used to print the first 3D Printed bridge in the world in Madrid, Spain, in collaboration with Acciona and the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC). The D-Shape printer remains the only binder jetting technology on the construction-scale market. It has gained considerable media attention throughout the years, that includes a dedicated documentary, several articles, TV-reportages, TED-talks, conferences etc.

The current number of employees and the sheer size of the company are not clear at this stage, but it is still quite small (less than 10 employees). Several experts have been cited as collaborating on various projects with D-Shape.

The company aims at selling printer units and offering technical support and maintenance of the machines. The company has also recently partnered with a printing service facility called Desamanera in Rovigo, Italy, which aims at printing custom sculptures and furniture on demand (D-Shape is the provider of the printer).

Projects

There are numerous projects where the D-Shape printing technology is involved. These include:

● First 3D Printed bridge in the world in Madrid, Spain (in collaboration with Acciona and Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC)

●  A 3D Printed reconstruction Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph replica erected in central London, under the initiative of the Institute of Digital Archaeology and UNESCO.

●  A research study for 3d-printed lunar bases, in association with Foster+Partners and the European Space Agency.

●  Landscape House, a museum shaped like a Mobius stripe, made of 3d-printed formwork blocks (in collaboration with Universe Architecture and the Royal BAM Group)

●  The Leaf, a conceptual project for revitalizing desert areas through the construction of large 3d- printed shading structures

●  Villa Rocca, a villa made of 3d-printed formwork components, planned in Sardinia, Italy

●  An artificial 3d-printed coral reefs project, aimed at restoring coral barriers around the world

●  Many other minor projects, including sculptures, coffee tables, furniture etc.

D-Shape has currently four or more operational machines, which participate in the various projects. Each new machine has been slightly modified compared to the previous one, in order to improve the efficiency and solve some smaller issues that have been learned on the previous models. The machines are used as working products, even though they are still partially in a prototype phase. No official sales of printers have been publicly known up to date. The company has used the printers to print several prototypes and sculptures, both for its own projects and tests, as well as other clients.

Currently there is a good degree of knowledge on the material, as it has been partially tested on several occasions. The material is showing promising results for construction use, both structural and non- structural. But further in depth research would be necessary to allow for a more reliable use within the industry.

The technology is capable of printing on an area of 6m x 6m, with a theoretical maximum height of 6m. However, these dimensions can theoretically be easily extended, by enlarging the frame of the structure. This has already been conceptualized by the company, with a goal to create a printer that can be enlarged in a modular way up to 24 meters in each dimension or more, to allow the direct printing of whole buildings. The largest object delivered in a single printing session up to now is a small conceptual house of a 4m x 2.4m footprint. While the size of the prints is still limited, larger buildings and structures have been planned and can be printed in components, and then be glued together afterwards with a mortar based on the same type of cement. An example of this is the first 3D Printed bridge in Madrid, Spain, which has been printed in sections. Same goes for the planned Villa Rocca project.

Published by Jarett Gross

Construction Tech Correspondent Spreading Awareness of Cutting Edge Firms Building the Future of the Industry

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