3D Printing

World's largest delta 3D printer could build entire houses out of mud or clay

World's largest delta 3D print...
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
View 7 Images
The previous 4.5 m (15 ft) model could also print in a variety of materials
1/7
The previous 4.5 m (15 ft) model could also print in a variety of materials
The 4.5 m delta printer in action
2/7
The 4.5 m delta printer in action
A new rotating nozzle will double as a mixer and allow the Big Delta even more flexibility with the choice of materials
3/7
A new rotating nozzle will double as a mixer and allow the Big Delta even more flexibility with the choice of materials
The Big Delta stands at 12 m (40 ft) tall
4/7
The Big Delta stands at 12 m (40 ft) tall
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
5/7
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
6/7
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
Aerial view of WASP's Big Delta 3D printer
7/7
Aerial view of WASP's Big Delta 3D printer

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.

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.

The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18
The Big Delta printer is due to be unveiled on September 18

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.

A new rotating nozzle will double as a mixer and allow the Big Delta even more flexibility with the choice of materials
A new rotating nozzle will double as a mixer and allow the Big Delta even more flexibility with the choice of materials

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 Project

7 comments
DonGateley
And an awesome potential solution to "housing first" shelters for the homeless and extremely disadvantaged. There is no shortage of space for that and this could very economically fill some of that space to help alleviate suffering.
Nik
The logistics [Fantasy ?] of shipping this machine into a disaster zone together with a generator, and the necessary excavating equipment to supply the machine with materials, would be horrendous. especially in an earthquake zone. Then once its printed the first dwelling, the whole contraption would have to be dismantled, without accidentally demolishing the new 'mud hut' in the process, to enable it to be set up at the next site. Africans, could probably build a whole village of mud huts in the time, it takes for this machine to be set up, print the first house, and then be dismantled. Given the speed of 3d printers, [or lack of it] tents would be a much quicker and simpler solution.
Don Duncan
Building with earth, rammed or adobe, is cost efficient, not because it can be done with a 3D printer, but because the bulk of the building material is lying all around, may be used without expertise (local labor), and requires no tools that cannot be built on site. The labor intensive construction method is no barrier in poverty stricken areas. That said, modern techniques have added to the durability, strength, and therefore the viability of earthen abodes. "Mud huts" can be replaced by millennia lasting earth houses that are cheap, practical, and allow low income homeless a chance to own by contributing "sweat equity". That said, some technical knowledge is essential. Selecting the raw materials, i.e., combining the correct ratio of sand/clay/additives is crucial. Once done correctly, the rest is relatively easy. No elaborate contraption (Big Delta?) is necessary.
michael_dowling
I consider it insane to build a mud house to replace a similar structure in earthquake prone areas.Better to rebuild with SIP building panels,which offer 100% protection from earthquakes,super insulation,and extremely fast construction time.Costs are compatible to stick houses.Although it would cost money for materials,it would not have to be rebuilt after the next quake/hurricane.
glorybe2
I am very much in favor of this device. I would not judge the strength of the homes produced as it may be better than many people might think and also may yet be improved by adding additional components to the mixture. In some areas relentless rains may be the greatest issue with earth built homes. One way another the surface must be protected against excessive rain exposures. Some hurricanes are like a car wash blasting away on our walls in Florida. Simple paints do not offer enough protection. A urethane coating like they use on roofs might do the job.
WillieNAz
Since the crew showed up with a bobcat for digging up all the dirt (in a real world scenario)... just make sure to include a hole drill attachment... dig 3 holes and sink 3 uprights made out of that hollow aluminum telephone pole stuff... tamp the dirt in place and go to building. I'd like to build a house like that only I'd put in 3 telephone poles that would stay permanent after the house is built so I could have those triangle wind sails shading my house here in Arizona all the time. Once the outside walls are about 3 foot tall you can go in and dump more dirt up to 3 foot high (since you won't have to worry about the printhead bumping into the dirt) and lower the bucket enough in the middle to keep filling it up. The biggest drawback to the delta printer is that the structure is only about half the diameter of the diameter of the outside printer's legs. So legs 20 ft apart would only give you about 100 sqft of living space... that's an awful lot of work for such a tiny space... I guess you can go taller and add a loft to the design... design in holes in the wall for the beams that support the upper floor.
WillieNAz
A better design would be to ship in two 20 shipping containers that include a bobcat and other materials for putting the thing together. Place the shipping containers 20' apart and parallel... install (using precut supports) 2 booms on one shipping container's long side 10' apart and 1 boom on the other container's side... do your print. Swap one of the 2 booms to opposite end and move the other container's boom 10' in the same direction. That way you could walk your print down the length of the two containers. Use the bobcat to drag the containers 20' after 2 sets of prints are done (the single boom container is offset by 10' further up the path of the build). And make the printer's mixing head the same width as a bobcat's bucket!