Earlier this year, we covered the 3Doodler, a pen that lets users sketch 3D objects with plastic filament, almost like a 3D printer. It's a fun little gadget, but what if someone made a device that offers similar freedom, except it built objects over 10 times larger? It might look something like the Mataerial 3D printer, which uses a robotic arm and quick-solidifying material to form rigid, free-flowing structures on almost any surface, even vertical ones.
Unlike most 3D printers that place thin layers along a horizontal plane, the prototype Mataerial extrudes thick columns outward from any angle. The device also uses thermosetting polymers in place of the usual heated plastics, causing the structures to stiffen almost immediately after the material leaves the nozzle. The designers call their patent-pending fabrication method "anti-gravity object modeling."
Users can design different shapes in CAD software and then feed them into the device to create a movement path for the arm. The color of the material can also be changed throughout the printing process by injecting color dye into the device in CMYK mode.
It may not be as precise and is limited to rod-based designs, but the Mataerial does have a few advantages over typical 3D printers. Aside from the ability to build onto vertical surfaces, the robotic arm can move in any direction during the construction process to create more natural curves. It also isn't confined to building objects within a set printing area, so it can produce a structure as large as the arm's reach.
Designers Petr Novikov and Saša Jokić from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) collaborated with Joris Laarman Studio on the project. Novikov was previously part of the team that developed the Stone Spray, which fabricated 3D structures using natural soil and sand.
So far, the Mataerial's creators have only made some wavy designs using the device, but they hope to eventually manufacture some usable architecture or furniture with it in the future. For now, though, you can watch the video below of the Mataerial's zen-like "anti-gravity object modeling" process to see it in action. But note that the video is running at three-times the actual speed.