Architecture is tapping into 3D printing technology in a major way through the production of building elements and structural components. Recent developments have also begun to work on creating seismically resistant structures. California-based architecture firm Emerging Objects has developed a design called the Quake Column, which draws on the ancient Incan building technique known as “ashlar” and merges it with modern technology.
Ashlar is a traditional Incan dry-stone wall technique that used blocks of stone cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The absence of resonant frequencies and stress concentration points made the structures more earthquake resistant. During earthquakes, the dry-stone walls built by the Incas would move slightly and resettle without any damage. Rounded corners and an incline of three to five degrees contributed to their stability.
The Quake Column is made using a similar technique; neighboring blocks interlock perfectly, but unlike the Incan version, whose stones weighed up to several tons, its 3D printed blocks are lightweight and hollow. There’s numbering option that allows the builder to know and precisely plan the placement of each component, while handles incorporated into every block allow for easy lifting. Architect Ronald Rael recently told Wired: “While this was an experiment in connectivity, we have been able to create 3-D printed parts that are much stronger than reinforced concrete in compression. We are also working on increasing the tensile strength of our materials using reinforcement fibers.”