Emerging Objects Are 3D Printing Houses Using Salt

by Matthew Wellington on August 20, 2014

3D Printed Salt HouseNaturally salt is usually considered to be just a cooking ingredient; Emerging Objects has managed to show a unique and unexpected function of salt, which has left many people utterly dismayed.

Thanks to their creativity in additive manufacturing architecture, they have proved that salt could be used to 3D print houses.

Emerging Objects is a design startup and agency that was founded by Ronald Rael and his counterpart Virginia San Fratello, who are both professors of architecture currently at the University of California Berkeley and San Jose State University.

Rael and Virginia founded the agency about six months ago with the aim of specializing in 3D printed architecture. Ever since this 3D printing research group came into existence, they have been using various additive manufacturing techniques together with locally available materials in producing smartly designed and withstanding architectural structures.

Their experiments and explorations have been based on their desire to print beautiful architectural designs made through the use of renewable and locally abundant resources. As a result many of the experiments they have carried out were utilizing a wide range of renewable resources and some industrial wastes including cement and wood.

According to Rael and Virginia, the sole focus of the company is to revolutionize the traditional architecture through new and inimitable 3D printing architectural techniques that will help build structures which are robust, sustainable and exquisite at the same time.

Additionally Emerging Objects has expressed its penchant to have all their furnishings to be 100% customizable and totally inexpensive. This is also why most of the resources they use are Recyclable.

Lowering the costs involved is important to them because low construction costs are what will enable their furnishings and structures to easily go mainstream.

First Salt Pavilion

Thanks to their great creativity and huge interest in introducing the world to additive manufacturing architectural designs, Emerging Objects will now go down in history as having made the first structure to ever be fully 3D printed entirely from salt that’s been locally harvested.

The design agency plans on 3D printing the pavilion using salt that will be readily acquired from the San Francisco Bay. As a demonstration of exactly how the salt house would look like, the startup has successfully created a prototype which was famously dubbed as the Saltygloo.

Salt House InteriorThe Saltygloo refers to a brilliant dome-shaped structure purely designed from sea salt.

Rael goes on to explain that the shape of the Saltygloo was mainly drawn from the dome-like forms that were found in the Inuit igloos and is partly where the meaning of its name is derived.

The name was also derived from the fact that the dome is made using a combination of salt-made panels and glue.

A powder-based 3D printing mechanism was used where layers of salt are made to solidify using a binding agent (glue). The resulting substance of salt and glue, “salty glue”, is found to be robust, transparent and waterproof making it qualify as a good building material.

The pavilion would be connected and held together by a total of 336 panels that will be randomly combined to form a large structure that has got unique tiles all the way up. The panels are reinforced with lightweight aluminium rods to express the crystalline element of salt and add onto the strength of the structure; in a much similar way to how aluminium poles are used to support a tent.

Due to the natural characteristics of salt, it is generally translucent allowing light to penetrate through hence beautifully illuminating the inner parts of the pavilion. For this reason, the professors point out that it should be expected that the illumination of the pavilion will keep on changing depending on the natural day light.

The prototype was a success and proved that it’s possible for sustainable, outwardly stunning and Environmentally Friendly structures to be created using 3D printed architecture. Consequently Emerging Objects has decided to begin the actual creation of the salt printed pavilion under the project named ‘3D-Printed House 1.0’.

The Saltygloo Experiment

The Saltygloo experiment was conducted by Emerging Objects to determine just how practical it was to fabricate a salt pavilion using additive manufacturing architecture. The salt would be harvested from over a century old (109-year-old) crystallization ponds found in Redwood City.

Salt CrystalsThe ponds are normally used in the salt making process which typically involves passing salty water from the San Francisco Bay through several ponds where evaporation takes place.

When the evaporation process is finally complete, usually about 9-12 inches of crystallized solid salt can be harvested to be used for industrial purposes.

It is estimated that around 500,000 tons of sea salt are harvested from the bay annually. What’s most exciting is the fact that the giant part of the process is often completed by the use of solar and wind power, which are highly available resources that go a long way in making the whole process inexpensive.

Overall, the outer parts of the building would be made using a cement polymer that Emerging Objects has already patented and the Saltygloo would primarily be used to design the inner areas of the house such as bathrooms, bedroom and the dining room.

No Giant 3D Printer Required

Emerging Objects is not the first company to try and use 3D Printing Technology to Print a House. There have been several trials in China before. However the main difference here is that unlike the case with the China trials, Emerging Objects will not be using any gigantic 3D printer.

The construction of the house will instead be done via the use of a 3D printer farm and not a 3D powder printer. This in addition to the fact that recyclable and renewable materials will be majorly used will make the construction a lot cheaper than if a 3D powder printer would have been required.

What’s more, using the 3D printer farm will enable the designer to build the house in a shorter time currently estimated to just one year. The 3D printed house is designed to be built at the Jin Hai Lake Resort in Beijing.

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