We've seen 3D printing using plastic materials, metals and even food, but what about salt? Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, architecture professors at the University of California Berkeley and San Jose State University and founders of 3D printing startup Emerging Objects, say that they have created the first structure that's been printed entirely out of locally-harvested salt.
Dubbed the Saltygloo, the pavilion is inspired by the Inuit igloo, and the use of salt blocks in traditional Middle Eastern and desert architecture, but is the first to be 3D printed using this renewable and abundant material. Say the designers:
The Saltygloo is an experiment in 3-D printing using locally harvested salt from the San Francisco Bay to produce a large-scale, lightweight, additive manufactured structures. The Saltygloo takes its clues from the Inuit Igloo, both in form and concept. In the landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area natural power from the sun and wind, produce 500,000 tonnes of sea salt each year.
This salt comes from a long, local tradition of salt-making, tying the work to time and place:
The salt is harvested from 109-year-old salt crystallization ponds in Redwood City. 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 crystallized salt that is then harvested for industrial use. From this landscape, a new kind of architecture is theorized and created through the lens of 3D printing and computer-aided design. The Saltygloo is made of a combination of salt harvested from the San Francisco Bay and glue, a “salty glue”, which makes an ideal 3D printing material, one that is strong, lightweight, translucent and inexpensive.
Reinforced with aluminum rods and made out of 336 uniquely shaped and translucent panels that recall the crystalline structure of sodium chloride, each of the pieces are "randomly rotated and aggregated to create a larger structure where all tiles in the structure are unique."
It's an unexpected use of a material that links up to a long and venerable history, and the designers are aiming to experiment with creating buildings and cladding systems with other recyclable and renewable materials, in addition to industrial byproducts. The Saltygloo itself is on display at the New West Coast Design 2 exhibition until January 5 , 2014. See more over at Emerging Objects.