3D Printing composite materials

Interesting research at Taubman College of Architecture: a different kind of 3D printing where the print material is not forming a structure by itself but rather becomes a part of a composite material. In this case – fabric but I would imagine the actual applications may also include printing with concrete (or gypsum for that matter) around a pre-made reinforcement structure.

As I was watching the robot extrude the plastic (was that polystyrene?) I could not help thinking that almost the same effect might have been achieved with cold-setting construction foams such as Great Stuff. Would need to devise a way to operate the valve through CNC control but the end result would probably be much the same. One other interesting angle in using the expanding foams would be to calculate the rate of expansion so that the mesh stretches and bends the fabric as it cures from a flat piece laid out on a printing surface (which would be much easier to print) morphing itself into a 3D shape as it cures.



After  further testing I have discovered that for the time being, a hexagonal grid pattern is not a viable solution for this semester’s research with the limited time left.

Due to the fact that the plastic is not directly smashed on the the fabric as it was during the 2D panel tests, there is a little bit of drag that is allowed before the plastic hits the suspended fabric—this causes a certain amount of curve smoothing to occur  in the the extrusion path. Therefore a diagrid pattern is still the best solutions as it allows the extrusion path to be linear allowing the plastic to settle onto the fabric according to the pattern.

(See other posts for the python scripts used to generate this pattern)


Other issues have been discovered while testing the potential of using the extruded plastic as structure as well. There is a certain amount of warping that occurs due to the plastic cooling…

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