3D printing helps to accelerate construction of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia
When it comes to the architectural wonders of the world, Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia immediately comes to mind. The Roman Catholic Church and UNESCO World Heritage Site is known worldwide for its unique blend of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms, as well as for the incredible complexity of the interior and exterior elements, which have been described as “mathematical” and “space-aged,”despite having been conceived of in 1882.
Unfortunately, the Sagrada Familia is also known for being one of the longest active construction projects in the world—in the 133 years since building began, the Catalan community has yet to see it completed. But 3D printing technology is about to change all of that. According to the BBC, The Church Technical Office tasked with completing the century-old project has turned to the latest technological advancements in order to see the church completed within our lifetime.
At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the church was only one quarter complete. Various architects and construction teams have since been attempting to finalize it based on Gaudi’s original designs, however this has proven to be a difficult task due to the architectural complexity of the forms, as well as the fact that Gaudi’s original writings, drawings and models were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
Before the advent of 3D printing, the project was carried out by creating handcrafted models, an expensive and labor-intensive process that seemed to have no end in sight. However, 14 years ago, the Church consortium’s technical studio invested in two ProJet Colour Jet Printing 3D printers which are allowing them to stay as true as possible to the original designs while working much more quickly and economically than ever before.
It takes about 12 hours to 3D print a modular prototype, which can be manipulated and re-finished post-printing. In addition to being able to produce models at a much faster rate, 3D printing allows for better accuracy, less material waste, fewer errors and the fabrication of functional parts, since the plaster-like material used during printing is similar to the one used to build the original models. And, since the project relies entirely on funding from private donations, the economical savings afforded by 3D printing are crucial.
The project that once seemed never-ending now has a completion date set for 2026—although given how quickly 3D printing technology is currently advancing, that date could potentially come sooner than expected.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Segrada Familia’s 3D construction is the fact that since the very beginning, Antonio Gaudi was known as a visionary who was always willing to experiment with the latest technologies. According to the Church’s website, the original construction in 1882 was carried out in a very traditional way, however when Gaudi took over one year later, he was determined to take advantage of all the modern techniques available, such as railway tracks and cranes, to bring his complex vision to life. In this sense, it’s fair to say that were Gaudi still with us today, he would be the first to support 3D printing technology and the possibilities it brings to the worlds of architecture, art and design.