Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
In May 2020, news broke of a partly 3D printed off-the-grid cabin in upstate New York, with walls made from ash wood damaged by the emerald ash borer beetle (EAB), and was elevated off the ground with 3D printed concrete stilts. (Its concrete chimney was also 3D printed.) Named the Ashen Cabin, it was built by architecture studio Hannah of Ithaca (also of New York) in collaboration with a group of students from Cornell University (also of Ithaca), and was built as a small-scale study of environmentally sustainable construction.
The EAB kills ash trees as part of its reproductive cycle. It was first discovered in America in 2002, and has since spread into 35 states and several provinces in Canada. (It was also the subject of a public information film by the U.S. Department Of Agriculture in 2005 that referred to the EAB as “the green menace.”) Hannah argues that ash trees damaged by the EAB cannot usually be used for construction, as sawmills cannot process them due to their irregular shape, ergo they are either burnt or left to decompose, both of which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Work on the cabin began in 2017 with 3D printing a concrete shell, using a 3D printing system Hannah and the Cornell University students made themselves, which was designed specifically to use no more concrete than necessary. The irregularly-shaped wood was cut via a repurposed robotic arm Hannah discovered on eBay, which had previously been used to build cars for General Motors of Detroit, Michigan. This made it able to saw and shape wood that would be impractically difficult to cut via conventional means.
Due to being off-the-gird, the cabin unsurprisingly has no mains electricity supply or running water. Being so basic, it has a footprint of just 100 square feet (9.3 square metres), with an interior comprising a single room, with: a wood-burning fireplace to regulate its temperature; a camping sink for water; shelving, and a platform for seating and/or sleeping on. (Its temperature is also regulated via foam insulation.) Hannah hopes that the Ashen Cabin becomes a blueprint for sustainably building houses in a way that combines 3D printing and robotic construction.
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Disclaimer: Featured image of “Cabin in the woods (Unsplash)” has been dedicated to the public domain by its author (known only as Geran de Klerk) under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.