Ceramic tiles are a popular choice in home renovations and come in a variety of shapes, colours and finishes. But they require hardening and firing in a kiln, which means that manufacturing them on a large scale produces quite a bit of carbon emissions.
But what about using additive manufacturing techniques to 'print' tiles out of recycled materials, rather than firing them? To demonstrate the possibilities of a new line of high-performance, 3D printed tiles to build habitable, auxiliary structures in cities where affordable housing is scarce, Archpaper shows how San Francisco-based design startup Emerging Objects created this backyard Cabin of Curiosities which integrates two different kinds of these textured and multifunctional tiles.
Emerging Objects co-founders Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, who also have printed structures out of salt and developed special evaporative bricks, explain on thier website some of the technical and conceptual aspects behind the two types of tiles: one called Seed Stitch which acts as a rain screen, and another kind that functions as mini-planters for hardy succulent plants.
According to Rael and San Fratello, the Seed Stitch tiles are inspired by the texture of knitted surfaces, which incorporate "little purl bumps look like scattered seeds." Their peeling appearance is both intentional and a result of the 3D printer "pulling away at the unstable end of each ceramic tile," they say:
Each tile has a curve that allows it to be hung on the surface of a building. The Seed Stitch Wall employs bent galvanized metal J molding to hang the light-weight ceramic tiles. 64 square feet of surface can be hung in just minutes. Alternatively, a 3D printed backing of various translucency or colors was also tested to achieve different functional and aesthetic outcomes. A translucent backing allows for backlighting of the ceramic wall for dramatic night-time effects, and can also be filled with expanded foam to create an insulated wall system.
Inside, the cabin is covered with textured, translucent Chroma Curl wall tiles, which are made with a bio-based plastic sourced from corn. The interior is furnished with various 3D printed products, from the lamp, to the coffee table, chair, kettle and cup.
Over 4,500 tiles were used for the structure, which were made with recycled agricultural and industrial waste products, ranging from grape skins, salt, cement and sawdust.
The duo's prototype comes on the tail of the local council easing restrictions on height and setback requirements, and the construction or transformation of secondary housing units in residential backyards, to help alleviate the Bay Area's lack of affordable housing.
There's scant details on the cost, but it's a high-tech approach to a complex problem that won't be solved by tech and materials innovation alone. Nevertheless, the project offers an interesting look into the possibilities of how new methods and recycled components might be integrated into the building process to make it more efficient. More over at Emerging Objects.