Only with natural materials the Wasp Crane Gaia prints sustainable buildings. A special feature here is that the project was only realized with raw materials located at the printing site. Additive manufacturing is slowly making its way into the manufacturing processes in the construction industry. New projects are being implemented step by step. We took a close look at the Shamballa project.

By Sabine Slaughter

Wasp is the name of the Italian company which is active as a manufacturer in various areas of additive manufacturing. These include art and culture, medicine, food, energy, digital manufacturing and architecture. Now one can ask what a wasp has to do with architecture. This is answered by Massimo Moretti, CEO of Wasp: "The mud wasp is our development model". It offers a perfect approach for building inexpensive houses from natural materials with a "zero-kilometer claim".
And here we stumble upon the next term, which needs an explanation: "Zero-kilometer claim". This is the approach that, in addition to natural building materials, only or almost exclusively materials that can be found locally at the desired location are used. This eliminates the need for expensive, environmentally damaging transport of building materials, which also helps to ensure the sustainability of the house pressure.
Wasp's orientation, since its foundation in 2012, has been constantly focused on the development of additive manufacturing equipment on an architectural scale. Together with RiceHouse, the company has developed material blends that produce an ideal building material for the region from locally available raw materials, which can be printed as a house without the need for heating or air conditioning, as a pleasant indoor temperature is maintained both in summer and winter. Gaia, as the house is called, is a powerful module, both in terms of energy and indoor health.
In Greek mythology the goddess Gaia stands for the personified earth and is one of the reasons why the printed house of the manufacturer received this name. After the introduction of the twelve meter Delta Wasp 12 in 2015, the Shamballa project has now been realised with the top model Wasp Kran Gaia, an additive production model that can be extended as required.
But back to the printed house: For the realization of Gaia, RiceHouse supplied the vegetable fibers through which Wasp developed a compound consisting of 25 percent of the site's soil (30 percent clay, 40 percent mud/silt and 30 percent sand), 40 percent rice chopped into straw, 25 percent rice husks and 10 percent hydraulic lime. The mixture was mixed in a wet mixer, which is able to make the mixture homogeneous and processable. This achieved an energy requirement corresponding to Class 4.
The outer walls have a thickness of 40 centimetres and were printed on site with the Wasp crane. The monolithic walls received a clay plaster from the inside, which was smoothed and oiled with linseed oil. One of the aims of the development was to integrate natural ventilation systems and thermo-acoustic insulation systems.
The deposition of the material on the basis of soil, straw and rice husks is controlled by structured fabrics, which simultaneously provide structural strength and geometric variation over the entire wall development. In practice, the versatility of computational design is enabled by the precision and speed of additive manufacturing technology. In ten days, the carcass was printed with complex geometries, with the materials used for the wall structure costing only 900 euros. One of the reasons for this low price is the zero-kilometer philosophy.
On the basis of the data collected by Gaia, it is possible to design concrete new economic scenarios in which one hectare of cultivated rice field can become 100 square metres of cultivated area. The multiple potential of 3D printing can be tapped thanks to the world's agricultural resources based on Gaia's experience, ensuring minimal environmental impact and infinite design solutions essential for a new vibrant vision of boundaries.
Gaia, whose name derives from the use of raw earth as the main binder of the mixture, can be seen as a new ecologically sustainable architectural model, with particular attention to the use of natural waste from the rice production chain, aimed at the construction of highly efficient masonry from a bioclimatic and healthy point of view. This research was also possible thanks to the collaboration with RiceHouse.
With the Shamballa project, the manufacturer, who puts his profit into research and development, wants to show what is possible. In October he therefore invited to a demonstration under the motto "A call to save the world". Wasp presented the development of the Big Delta Wasp 12 Meter and the innovative Wasp Crane, a 3D printing system consisting of several pressure bodies connected by light net structures and capable of expanding the working space and shortening the construction time.
Knowledge applied to the common good
When digital manufacturing techniques are used to respond to basic human needs, this creates a real hope for people, and that was the guide of "A call to save the world". A home is undoubtedly a primary need, and the initiative allows people to build 3D printing houses wherever they are with locally found materials, at a price that tends towards zero.
The Wasp appeal was aimed at all those who want to work together and spread the new building techniques with the aim of creating a better world. Representatives of international organizations involved in architectural research, such as IaaC (Institute Advanced Architecture Catalunya, ES), XtreeE (FR), D-Shape (IT), Emerging Objects (USA), attended the meeting.
The conference focused on future developments in 3D printing in the construction sector and suggested topics for reflection on design strategies and the potential of this technology in architecture. Today, thanks to advances in the extrusion of liquid-tight materials based on clay and cement, additive manufacturing can be seen as a good way of creating complex architectural shapes that guarantee a high level of functionality and performance. In fact, it is already possible to integrate ventilation and thermal insulation systems into the articulation of the elements of a building.


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