A trip to the beach is a lot of fun and one of the most enjoyable activities is building the biggest sandcastle within sight. Sand is a unique type of medium for building and much of its structural integrity can be seen in our simple or even elaborate sandcastle designs. Where it is true, sandcastles are inevitably destroyed by the incoming tide or an inconsiderate person, sand remains as one of the best building materials on the market. This notion has not merely been a part of the pottery industry but is now taking hold in the 3D Printing world as well.

3D Printing with Sand, Really?

Yes, 3D Printing with sand is one of the most revolutionary ways to use a 3D Printer. We are used to seeing 3D Printers extrude metals, plastics, and even wood materials to produce remarkably stunning 3D Printed art and practical use items, but it becomes a bit confusing when speaking of something as moldable as sand. What is extruded out when 3D Printing sand is not a liquid based material, but a mixture of actual sand or silica, metal particles, or ceramics. The 3D Printer utilises binder jetting to hold the material in place as it is being extruded from the machine. Artists use sand 3D Printing as a means of making an actual item or as a mold for other materials as sand is known for being excellent as holding its shape for molding other liquid based materials.

3D Printing with sand is ideal for making molds

Where the Idea Originated

The first notion of 3D Printing with sand was initialized in the 1990s. Generis, a German based company, wanted to find a way to make molds for metal casting. Due to the high heat that sand can easily contend with without melting, sand was a natural solution. Generis worked with MIT to develop the first working 3D Printer capable of using sand as a main medium. It was not until the middle of the 2000s that Generis actually took their design to the commercial industry and offered it as a viable option for today’s 3D Printing enthusiasts.

A Big Difference

3D Printing with sand is not simply unique because it is one of the newer materials to be used, but due to the process as well. As we stated earlier, sand 3D Printing is made possible by binder jetting in which a binder polymer is used to hold the materials together during and after printing. However, what is even more unique about this process is the temperature in which it is extruded. To melt general plastics and metals for extrusion, it takes a lot of heat. Safety standards must always be in place to avoid possible burns with general 3D Printing, but sand requires no heat and all projects should be managed at your own risk. Layer by layer sand is extruded from the extruder with absolutely no heat applied.

This notion allows for 3D Printers using sand to produce much larger final products. Due to the need for added energy and safety precautions of standard 3D Printers, there can be limits placed on exactly how large or complex a structure can be. These limits are most noticeable in desktop models as commercial 3D Printers can be made to be as large as necessary, but it is something to take note of if you intend on using a sand-based 3D Printer.

A Futuristic Sand 3D Printed design for possible homes in the future. The notion makes perfect sense as desert sand is readily available as a possible building material for large scale homes. Ancient people have made sand-based homes for centuries, so why not take it to the next level with 3D Printing.

An Option for Schools

3D Printing with sand is a unique opportunity to make homes, such as the ones pictured above, in the most arid desserts, but it is also an incredible opportunity to educate the next generation about the potential for 3D Printing. Schools and learning institutions are always looking for ways to bring new technology into the classroom, but when teaching very young children, it can be a bit concerning to bring in machines that produce heat as with standard 3D Printers. Encased 3D Printers solve this problem, but with the inquisitive minds of children, it does block their ability to have a clear view of what is being printed. The lack of heat in sand 3D Printers have the potential to open up doors for even the youngest of students to learn the beauty and artistry involved in 3D printing.

The future of 3D Printing with sand is bright. We are now just cracking into the potential of this impressive form of art and structural building. Sand is an abundant resource that can be found throughout the world, so why not use what we already have here instead of introducing merely new materials. Sand 3D Printing has vast potential to positively impact the environment as well as educate our young people while providing necessary products for life.


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