Digital Grotto

voxeljet prints room sculpture

Architects have already been using 3D printing technology for creating true-to-scale models for a number of years. This is the beginning of the second development stage: With their future-oriented project "Digital Grotto", visionaries Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger created the first walk-in space entirely with 3D printing.

With the project "Digital Grotesque", Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, architects and lecturers at the CAAD Chair of the Eidgenössische Institut für Technologie (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, want to show a highly detailed space with more than 200 million facets to research the enormous complexity and aesthetics of shapes that can be built accurately with 3D printing. 

The project demonstrates the possibilities of a digital chain in architecture, and always remains in the computer from the design to the production stage. This fascinating living space offers an incredible amount of detail with a sensational variety of filigree elements over a floor space of approximately 16 square meters.

To produce such a structure continuously with 3D printing is a demanding task. The grotto consists of approximately 80 individual components, some of which are very large. High-resolution large-format printers that can guarantee the necessary precision are required to build these self-supporting components with an accuracy of fractions of millimeters. 

Our VX4000 printer is able to print shapes with a volume of up to eight cubic meters. We believe that this printer was the ideal machine for this demanding project," says voxeljet CEO, Dr. Ingo Ederer.   

Print precision provides a perfect fit

Parts were painted and assembled at the ETH. During these processes, the components exhibited not only excellent resilience but also precision. Despite the amount of detail, each part was a perfect fit with the next, so the grotto was rapidly assembled without any Problems.

"We were very excited about the quality, attention to detail and the precision of the printed parts. The rapid voxeljet large-format printers with their huge build space are ideally suited for architecture. 

With its expertise and innovative power, voxeljet was our ideal partner in this  unique demonstration of 3D printed architecture," concludes Michael Hansmeyer. The impressive room sculpture can still be seen at "Archilab 2013 Materializing Architecture" at the FRAC Centre in Orléans until February 2 2014.

Technical data

Total size 3,100 x 1,000 x 1,350 mm
Weight 5,500 kg
Individual pieces65
Material Sand
Layer thickness 0.3 mm
Lead time 25 days
Build time 9 days