WASP (World's Advanced Saving Project) is set to unveil Big Delta, reportedly the world's largest delta 3D printer, later this week. This 12-meter (40 ft) tall behemoth was brought to life with the purpose of building nearly zero-cost housing through the use of local materials and as little energy as possible, offering quick and inexpensive relief to disaster areas and addressing the future housing needs of a rapidly growing world population.
Building houses quickly and on a very tight budget through additive manufacturing, be it on Earth on another planet entirely, is a very interesting proposition for more than one good reason. In space, this would afford us huge amounts of design flexibility, giving way to unusual but highly functional structures that simply couldn't be assembled any other way.
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Back on our own planet, 3D-printed houses may be about to become more and more commonplace as the United Nations predicts there will be a need for almost a hundred thousand new homes daily, worldwide, for the next 15 years.
Cheap and quick to build housing units could also be a good fit for, among other things, bringing quick relief to areas hit by natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and floods. With the cost, energy and material restraints being as severe as they are in an emergency situation, it's well worth looking for solutions from unusual sources of inspiration.
Arguably, none does the job better than the potter wasp, which builds its nest by methodically depositing countless layers of ubiquitous mud on top of each other, forming a shape that resembles a clay pot. As such, this industrious insect may well be the world's smallest (and most environmentally-friendly) 3D printer.
Italian engineering company WASP, which manufactures 3D printers in all sizes, has recently been focused on taking after its namesake and building (human-sized) shelters of its own. Last year, the company showcased a 4.5 m (15 ft) tall printer that could work with simple but highly versatile materials such as mud, clay or natural fibers. Now, the company has gone even bigger with a record-breaking 12 m (40 ft) tall printer called the Big Delta.
Supported by a sturdy metal frame 6 m (20 ft) in diameter, a rotating nozzle doubles as a mixer that keeps printing materials homogeneous, while reportedly requiring only tens of watts of power to work. The possible building materials are plenty, ranging from mud to clay that can be structurally reinforced with small amounts of chemical additives, down to, potentially, cement (though this would contrast with the company's green agenda).
The company says it is also working on a collaboration to provide health assistance in disaster areas through 3D-printed housing that would add an insect repellent to its walls.
Due to its great flexibility in shapes, sizes and choice of materials, 3D-printed housing has more potential than merely addressing disaster area needs or the surging population in the developing world. In fact, WASP reports that the town of Iglesias, in the southern coast of Sardinia, has already shown interest in the Big Delta, and currently the historic municipality appears to be the most likely location for the first housing units to be built using the printer.
The Big Delta will be presented this Friday during a three-day event in Massa Lombarda.
Source: WASP ProjectView gallery - 7 images