July 25, 2013 AT 12:00 pm

3D Design Inspiration: Mario Salvadori’s “Why Buildings Stand Up” + Salvadori & Levy’s “Why Buildings Fall Down”

WhyBuildingsStandUp . WhyBuildingsFallDown

These two engaging structural engineering / architecture books are approachable to those new to the topic and can act as a jumping off point to help you consider the structural implications of the construction materials and methods you use for your 3D projects.

While very few 3D printed pieces are large enough to offer the dramatic collapse of a steel bridge buckling, nor will the hardiest printed piece likely outlive the pyramids sitting on the corner of your desk — however, structural considerations will play a major factor should you want to create cases, brackets, tools, assemblies, mounting plates, or hardware.

The typical FDM/FFF-style 3D printed object can be broken more easily at a horizontal layer while the “long thread” of the material being extruded each layer makes it very difficult to break an object vertically. Some objects need to be printed in very specific orientations to make them stronger, or even weaker/more flexible.

Architect, professor, and engineer Mario Salvadori is himself an interesting character — from a New York Times article about him:

The world of Mario Salvadori has ranged from Rome, where he was born, to the halls of Columbia University, where he taught engineering and architecture for half a century, to the great cities of the world for which he designed his skyscrapers.

On this particular morning, though, he was really in his element: standing in front of eighth graders at the Salvadori Mini-School, on the fourth floor of Intermediate School 115 in District 10 in the Bronx, transforming his collection of paper, string, bricks, blocks and chunks of foam rubber into instruments of wonder.

The 82-year-old Mr. Salvadori, a structural engineer by training and a teacher by instinct, took a single sheet of paper that had been folded, origami-style, into a barrel vault about six inches in length. Then he took a block, 40 times as heavy as the sheet of paper, and asked students how many of them thought the arch would hold the block. One timid hand was raised in the back row.

It held, so Mr. Salvadori added another block, and another, up to six, before the pile came crashing down on the desk. ”Look here,” he said, motioning the students to gather around the desk and pointing to one of the creases on the wrinkled barrel vault. ”Here’s where it buckled.” In a survey last fall, the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that American students’ understanding of science was ”distressingly low,” and Mr. Salvadori thinks he knows why. ”Kids today have too much education,” he said. ”Teachers tell them about science, but they don’t get the chance to experience it for themselves.” …

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