The use of 3D printing in architecture is not a focus of this website. Occasionally, though, an interesting story comes along that expands the use of 3D printing and that can maybe ignite ideas in others.
According to Alberto T. Estevez founder and director of iBAG-UIC Barcelona, BioDigital Architecture is the fusion of biological and digital techniques in architecture. The discipline starts with the premise that nature has answers that, as our scientific understanding advances, we can understand.
The Institute for BioDigital Architecture and Genetics (iBAG-UIC) in Barcelona, is attempting to find out that if nature has the answers, what are “the questions?” Researchers at the institution are interrogating “the question” from the angle of biology, genetics, computation, art, architecture, design, and civil engineering. They are exploring the point where genetics meets biology and the digital — in the case applied to architecture and design.
The central objective of iBAG-UICs research is to create architecture and design by joining forces with geneticists and philosophers, and focusing on bringing together of biological and digital techniques to achieve architectural objectives.
The future is Biodigital
The researchers are convinced that biodigital is the future for architecture and forecast that houses, cities, and landscapes will be 50% biological and 50% digital in the not-too-distant future. One potential of biological and digital techniques could be on sustainability and social efficiency, which could benefit the planet.
According to the researchers, the city of the future will be 100% biodigital, improved by biological and digital technology. “For example, we can learn from trees, making cities that are more like forests rather than a mass of boxes,” note the researchers. “At present as our cities grow, nature dies. The future demands that everything man does create life, and this is where the future can be seen to be biodigital.”
Biodigital architecture aims to transform the built environment into a part of the natural environment and ecosystem, turning architecture into a living thing that possesses the complex intelligence of biological agents and systems. This is achieved through the integration of natural bio-intelligence through the agency of biotechnological tools (extending from the simple culturing of bacterial or fungal strains to produce bacterial cellulose or mycelium bricks as a building material to the specific DNA editing to insert a bioluminescent gene into a non-naturally luminescent tree); digital design tools (3D modeling in parametric and digital design platform), and bio-fabrication tools and digital-fabrication tools (additive or subtractive manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing, robotic manufacturing, CNC milling as so on).
Right now, the Institute’s research line of bioactive tissues, managed by Dr. Yomna K. Abdallah, Assistant professor and PhD researcher in Bioengineering at UIC, Barcelona, includes main three aspects.
First is the pre-printing phase for developing different bioinks suitable for maximum cell viability and boosting the proliferation of certain cell types.
Second is the 3D printing process for experimenting with the printability of the different compositions of custom bioinks and their rheological properties in the printing and post-printing process of cross-linking and fastness. This phase is crucial as it contains many parameters controlling the biomaterial tissue’s chemical, physical, and structural properties while maintaining their bio viability.
Third is the post-printing phase where the researchers experiment with the proliferation, differentiation, function, morphogenesis and independent pathways of the printed biomaterials, followed by the scaling up of these printed biomaterials and how their cellular scale behavior will affect them at the macro scale. In this phase the researchers also experiment with the application of the biomaterials in the architectural built environment to build a picture of their performance, on pilot scale, in real time, and under real operating conditions.
The Felix 3D Bioprinter is the main tool used in the second phase, the printing phase, where the researchers use it to identify the possibility of controlling and adjusting the chemical, physical, and structural parameters related to the composition of the biomaterial tissues. The aim is to achieve a library of new living biomaterials with their independent pathways to be used as architectural materials for various functional and ecologic aspects.
Key bioprinter attributes
The FELIX Bioprinter’s dual head extruder supports the complexity of the target design of biomaterial tissues composition. The dual printing with multiple bioinks in the same printing process enables the Institute to experiment with and synthesize wider compositions of different optimized biomaterial tissues more subjectively and customized to their functional applications.
The geometrical precision of the BIOprinter achieved by the high resolution and translation of the G-code gives the researchers control over the physical dimensions and properties of the printed biomaterials. So, the researchers can customize the chemical and physical properties of the biomaterial tissues over the nano and microscale. And this is precisely the level of precision that iBAG-UIC needs for its research.
Finally, the highly sterile printing conditions offered by the FELIX BIOprinter maintains the viability of the living cells composing the biomaterials tissues, thereby guaranteeing the efficiency of the printing and post printing process.