Pixelstone 3D Printer

by Lab3D

3D printing with cubic bricks Dutch startup Pixelstone developed a 3D printer prototype which prints facades out of small cubic bricks. The bricks, in different colors, are mixed and printed as 3D pixels; Pixelstones. Pixelstones are redesigned to be pumped through a hose to the printhead. The cubi

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Specifications

General

Product Name
Pixelstone 3D Printer
Designer
Lab3D
Manufactured
Netherlands

Product Type

Software
Cad and rendering

3D printing with cubic bricks Dutch startup Pixelstone developed a 3D printer prototype which prints facades out of small cubic bricks. The bricks, in different colors, are mixed and printed as 3D pixels; Pixelstones. Pixelstones are redesigned to be pumped through a hose to the printhead. The cubic bricks are oriented and placed by the printhead. A movie of the prototype: https://youtu.be/iDOLPMKDBb0


Besides sleek facades, Pixelstones enables rich and complicated facades. Printed with different colors, patterns, images, reliefs, ornaments, window frames; everything you can imagine. The architect gets total control of every pixel in a facade. The goal of Pixelstone is to bring a new kind of craftsmanship to builders and architects. The timeless quality of brick in a new appearance for a new era. Also in an environmentally friendly way: compared to a standard brick the pixelstones requires 90% less energy a kg to produce, simply because of the size and the very short fire time. The first application of the print technology will be producing prefab insulating facades. The next step: printing entire constructions.


Patent pending. (Printing with cubes enables high speeds printing with smooth surfaces of orthogonal objects. The material is already solid and flat and doesn’t need curing or cooling down like concrete or plastic printers).


Background information Bricks Brick is an appreciated facade material. It has a timeless beauty and has a sense of quality. For todays standards it has only one flaw, it is too big. The brick dates back well before Christ and is optimized for application by hand. Big enough to build sturdy walls and light enough to pick up by one hand. In the mean time lots of things have changed. The brick has become cladding instead of a construction material. Climate change is getting a big issue and we are on the verge of new industrial revolution. Time for a change.


Bricks reframed: Pixelstones Pixelstones are optimized for mechanization. The stones are sized down to fit through a hose and are light enough to be pumped like a fluid. In the tube the pixels can’t pass each other, they enter and exit in the same order.


Size matters: 90% less energy Bricks are fired at over 1000 degrees celsius. To avoid thermal stresses a brick has to be heated and cooled gently. The firing process of a standard brick takes up to 3 days. Pixelstones are small, they dry and fire a lot faster. It takes only 1-2 hours to finish the process. Firing the small cubes requires 90% less energy compared to the same amount of standard brick. A huge energy saving.


Prototype Pixelstone has build a prototype of the 3D printer and software. The prototype is capable of printing 0,5 m2/hr, enough for small pilot projects. The first commercial version, available in 1,5 to 2 years, will be able to print 5 m2/hr on prefab facade panels.


3D print system for prefab facades. The ceramic pixels will be supplied by brick factories in containers . These “cartridges” are filled with a single or a blend of colors. The Pixelstones are pumped from the cartridges to the mixer. The bricks, arranged in the right order, are pumped by the mixer to the printhead. The printhead, mounted on a robot or gantry, ejects and bonds the Pixelstones.


Design tool New technology requires a new design tool. Pixelstone developed a simple application that enables the architect to design with Pixelstones. Any kind of image or facade design can be loaded in the software and converted in the cubic bricks. Stone colors and the ratio between the colors can be tweaked in order to have total control of the end result.


50% price reduction In the Netherlands brick slips, a thin slice of a brick, are used in prefab construction. Pixelstone cladding is at least 50% cheaper compared to bricks slips. Based upon calculations with a limited machine occupancy rate, operator attendance and a short return of investment. Even with the assumption that the pixels are barely cheaper than bricks.


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