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Published on October 17th, 2016 | by Geetika Bhasin

Dr. James Gardiner uses 3D printing to create innovative construction works and coral reefs

Dr. James Gardiner is an Australian architect who has worked on everything from skyscrapers to coral reefs. Liang O’ Rourke, his employer, is preparing to launch a huge 3D printer under the guidance of Dr. Gardiner.

The 3D printing techniques used by Gardiner is very different from the technologies being used around the globe. The mammoth Big Delta 3D printer by WASP is one such example. The patented FreeFAB 3D printing technology was one of Laing O’Rourke’s innovations and it bagged a place in the BRW (now AFR) 50 Most Innovative Companies List in 2014. It was the first time a construction company appeared on the list. The FreeFAB team, supervised by Dr. Gardiner, is all set to begin large-scale construction projects using the innovative 3D printing system. This system puts together 3D printing, CNC machining, and wax casting in an interesting way to pave way for speedy construction of unconventional forms.

The FreeFAB is a 100-foot-tall 3D printer, and prints large amounts of a wax material at phenomenal speeds. The wax is then molded using a CNC machine. After the wax mold is complete, a concrete mix is poured to create a building component with intricate design. Unlike traditional, concrete components, where cost and time is a constraint, the FreeFAB technique allows for the manufacture of unique and creative designs. Once the concrete is dry and cast, the wax is re-melted and re-used. This is a major cost reduction technique.

DR. Gardiner’s other areas of interest lie in coral reefs. The first ever 3D printed coral reef which is now implanted in the ocean near the coast of Bahrain was Gardiner’s work along with colleague David Lenon of Reef Design Lab.

Dr. Gardiner’s 3D printed reefs are displayed in the Powerhouse Museum in New South Wales. The exhibit, “Out of Hand: Materializing the Digital,” analyzes the role of 3D printing in design and other digital technologies. It features work from more than 60 artists, designers, and architects from around the globe.



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