Andrea Morgante, founder of Shiro Studio, collaborated with D-Shape in 2008 to produce the Radiolaria pavilion, a free-form structure created using the world’s largest 3D printer. Measuring 3 x 3 x 3 metres, the structure is a scale model of a final 10 metre tall pavilion currently being fabricated in Pontedera, Italy. The aim of the Radiolaria pavilion was to demonstrate the capabilities of this pioneering construction technology through complex geometry. It allows free-form construction of monolithic structures on a large scale.
Ernst Haeckel’s studies on radiolarians were a source of inspiration; their evolutionary formation process of mineral and siliceous skeletons share an affinity with the way that the mega-printer operates, through the slow deposition of mineral and siliceous material, layer after layer.
The thin layers of the structure are held together by an inorganic binder, which transforms any kind of sand or marble dust into a stone-like material (i.e. a mineral with microcrystalline characteristics) with a resistance and traction superior to portland cement, to a point where there is no need to use iron to reinforce the structure. The structure was designed using CAD/CAM software and then exported directly to the printer. Once printed, it only takes about 24 hours for the material to fully set. The process is also environmentally sound, if any of the building material remains unused, it can be recycled.