WASP to 3D Print in, on, and around Salone del Mobile’s Dropcity Tunnels


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Salone del Mobile is the world’s largest and most prestigious design event. This year, Italian additive manufacturing (AM) firm WASP will join the event by 3D printing pieces of the show itself. WASP will establish its own 3D printing center within Dropcity, an architecture and design hub that amalgamates galleries, workshops, robots, and more, located near Milan’s central station. Situated in old tunnels, Dropcity will feature presentations, DJs, and now, 3D printing.

The center aims to be a resource for Milan’s 12,000 architects and will feature a reference library, a recycling center, and machine tool capabilities. Milan’s Dropcity draws inspiration from Drop City, an eco and artists’ town based in Colorado. Focused on the concept of happenings and artistic expression, the city flourished in the 1960s, attracting notable artists and architects, including Buckminster Fuller. However, Colorado’s Drop City eventually fizzled out due to differences in philosophy and goals and is now abandoned. Perhaps this experiment, nestled in tunnels in central Milan, will prove more successful.

WASP will be situated in Tunnel 54 on Via Giovanni Battista Sammartini and aims to make the abandoned tunnel network more habitable through 3D printing. A Crane WASP will create facades that will double as work areas. Additionally, a Crane WASP Scara will conformally 3D print on top of the existing tunnel walls. The company’s clay 3D printers will utilize WASP 40100 Production machines to fabricate wall components.

It’s all very Salone, really. I think this move by WASP is fantastic. The area is situated between Brera and other intriguing design zones such as Porta Venezia and Ventura for Salone. Salone encompasses various areas, designers, and focus areas throughout the city. By establishing itself as a haven for architects to relax or learn, Dropcity could well integrate itself amidst the Salone hubbub. It will be challenging, given the already abundant activities.

However, the Dropcity concept is wonderful. Recycling trash, utilizing 3D printing and robots, and creating sustainably using new methods is compelling. Many creative individuals now feel inhibited in their creations because there is already so much stuff in the world, much of it wasteful and inefficient. At the same time, there is significant interest in robot construction and 3D printing from architects. The idea of combining a sustainable, guilt-free construction process with art and DJs could indeed be a successful one.

The ETH in Zurich and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) are indeed notable research hubs for design and 3D printing in architecture. Dubai is also striving to position itself as a building hub. However, Milan uniquely combines a zest for the future with an enviable lifestyle. By leveraging its cool factor, the city’s numerous attractions, and a center for architecture and automated manufacturing, Milan’s Dropcity could very well secure a leading role as the go-to place for 3D printing buildings. Particularly, if many architects become acquainted with 3D printing in clay and consider creating small elements using this technology, it could prove highly successful. Clay offers an accessible entry point for 3D printing architectural elements, allowing for the creation of tiles, ornaments, or small objects easily, affordably, and safely. Exposing architects to clay printing, this project could encourage thousands to craft architectural objects in a low-risk manner, potentially leading to involvement with larger components later on. This approach is ingenious. There are currently few places worldwide where one can both experience and learn about 3D printing for construction. By immersing itself in cool and making Dropcity a place to truly experience this new way of creating building components, Milan has significantly positioned itself as the global hub for 3D printing in architecture.

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