Printing Cities and Other Things

03.2017 - Large scale printers can build an entire row of buildings within one day. With her work „New Artificiality“, Swiss photographer Catherine Leutenegger approaches to modern additive manufacturing in China. On a much smaller scale, the technology is also being used by ALPA.

From its initial primary use in prototyping, 3D printing has become a rapidly growing medium with a wide range of applications in the last decade. With its increasing democratization and its ever-growing possibilities, Catherine Leutenegger explores the current limits and future developments related to additive manufacturing in the process of revolutionizing numerous business sectors.

For her ongoing work titled “New Artificiality”, she visited the headquarters of a Chinese construction company named WinSun (also called Yingchuang) based in Suzhou in northwest of Shanghai. The firm built one of the world's largest 3D printers and gained massive attention by producing ten houses in 24 hours at a cost of approximately $5,000 each. As proof of their abilities, the company also printed a five-story building and a 3’600 square meter mansion in the Suzhou Industrial Park.

„WinSun uses a basketball court-sized printer to layer ground up construction materials, mostly recycled waste, around quick-drying cement, bonded together to make walls which are reinforced with steel and stuffed with insulation“, Catherine Leutenegger writes. „The striated structure of the walls creates an unusual texture and confers a feeling of unheimlich. These irregular layers remind the static noise of a screen producing uncomfortable and hypnotic visual stimuli. A virtual glitch materialized in the tangible space.“

ALPA and 3D printing

„New Artificiality“ sheds new light on large scale 3D printing. In a different way, ALPA does apply the technology of additive manufacturing as well. To us, printing things makes sense when there is a need for a small amount of high precision products. Classic plastic manufacturing is based on injection molds, which makes manufacturing of smaller amounts of numbers expensive. 3D printers are able to produce a single product without a form,
while being highly precise.

These arguments are the reason ALPA decided do use additive manufacturing for different products such as lens shades. Being laser sintered in Switzerland, they are durable and exactly match with the picture angle of the particular objective. Printers also produce parts like protection covers, handgrips and viewfinder adapters. As ALPA keeps a close eye on the development of additive manufacturing, other printed products will follow.









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