A group of students at the University of Tokyo have created a ’3D printing pen’ and have begun to develop complex structures out of plastic sticks.
The drawings/structures are formed via thermoplastic filament. The strings bond with acrylic rods, creating forms that have good structural stability (particularly in tension) and the structures are more durable than most 3D-printed forms.
The team are part of the University of Tokyo‘s Obuchi Laboratory which is itself part of the Global 30 Architecture and Urbanism programme there. The programme is governed by world renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and the directing instructor for this project is Toshi Kiuchi.
To build a structure the team must use a 3D-tracking system which locates (with precision) the positions of the sticks in 3D and real-time. This helps guide the hand of the user moving between the structure and operating the 3D-printing pen.
As we have come to know, one of the limitations of larger-scale 3D printers is that they are expensive and require ‘gantries’ to create anything of scale. The pen however can be used to construct much bigger forms than conventional 3D printers currently allow.
One of the real advantages of the idea is that anyone can participate in the process. The designers have democratizing the 3D fabrication process (one usually available only to skilled trainees). This begs the question; now that the public can be invited to engage, in what new direction will a collective mind take architecture! We wait to see.}