3D-Printing a School

Schools make the printers what they are. But in Madagascar, printers make the schools. Of course, schools don’t really make printers what they are, but for the sake of this cool two-sentence comparison, let’s just pretend that they do.

But the part about printers making schools is certainly true enough. The project is a collaboration between Thinking Huts, a nonprofit organization, and Studio Mortazavi, an architecture firm, with Hyperion Robotics helping out every now and again. As of now, this is all just theoretical, but the team is confident that they can convert their radical idea to reality. Their plan is to print a single-story building with an area of some 17,000 square feet (or 157 square meters), which would fit thirty students total. Solar panels and a rainwater collection system will also be installed for electricity and a steady water supply.

How do you 3D-print an entire building? The experts will they you that it’s very simple––but we all know that it’s anything but when they say so. Simplified, the process will require “extruding a locally sourced cement mixture, layer by layer, until the basic structure is complete.” Then human construction workers will step in and finish it, adding a metal roof, doors and windows, and furniture. All of this is expected to take twenty-two days, which is faster than the more traditional building techniques the Madagascar region has become accustomed to.

And this school won’t just serve as a testament to the practicality of 3D-printing; the team says that it will be much stronger and steadier than your typical school in Madagascar––and the space between the inner and outer walls will provide high-quality insulation. Said they, “The wall produced during the 3D printing process will be 27 times stronger than a sun dried clay brick, 3.5 times stronger than a kiln fired clay brick and two times as strong as standard concrete. This strength provides much more resistance to decay and structural failure of the wall than the use of clay bricks (kiln fired or sun dried) or even than traditional concrete. This is key to keeping students safe and maximizing the useful life of the building.”

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