“The structure is an experiment in 3D printing using locally harvested salt from the San Francisco Bay to produce a large-scale, lightweight, additive manufactured structures,” said Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello of additive manufacturing startup Emerging Objects.
They explained that 500,000 tonnes of sea salt are harvested each year in the San Francisco Bay Area using power from the sun and wind. “The salt is harvested from 109-year-old salt crystallisation ponds in Redwood City,” they said. “These ponds are the final stop in a five-year salt-making process that involves moving bay water through a series of evaporation ponds. In these ponds the highly saline water completes evaporation, leaving 8-12 inches of solid crystallised salt that is then harvested for industrial use.”
In addition to being a renewable resource, the salt is inexpensive compared to commercially available printing materials and creates strong lightweight components.
They claim that their pavilion is the first to be printed from salt but draws on traditional techniques for building with the material. “No one has ever 3D-printed a building out of salt,” Rael told Dezeen. “However, there is a long tradition of architecture constructed of salt blocks, particularly in the Middle East and in desert environments.”
The 336 unique translucent panels of the Saltygloo structure were made in a powder-based 3D printing process where a layer of salt is applied then fixed in place selectively with a binding agent, before the next layer of salt is deposited and the process is repeated.
The panels were then connected together to form a rigid shell, further supported with lightweight aluminium rods flexed in tension.
“Each panel recalls the crystalline form of salt and is randomly rotated and aggregated to create a larger structure where all tiles in the structure are unique,” explained the designers.
…Rael and San Fratello are professors of architecture and design at the University of California Berkeley and San Jose State University. They founded Emerging Objects six months ago to focus on printing architecture from a diverse set of materials, largely renewable or sources from industrial waste, including some they have developed themselves.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!