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Resident Member Sabastian Teo’s deep fascination of space exploration has led him to research the possibilities of outer space colonisation, in particular on Mars, for his final research project as part of his Master of Architecture
at RMIT.

Through Teo’s interest in robotic and digital fabrication in architecture, he uses computational tools such as algorithms and scripts to develop specific outcomes, and realising this in the real world through the use of robotics, such as various 3d printing processes, Computer Numeric Control (CNC) routing and various other automated methods.

The ever-evolving development of technology and computer generated design leads to fascinating and exciting possibilities which can be imagined using these emerging 3d printing technologies and robotic processes.

“What is important in my studies and is a constantly present issue is uncovering the limits and constraints of current robotic fabrication and material characteristics, and is the basis of solutions to future Robotic and Digital Fabrication technique and processes,”
says Teo.

With a fast-developing interest on sending people to Mars, and major bodies such as NASA and Elon Musk seeing humans on Mars in the soon future, Teo says, ‘Architecture’ on Mars will be one of the problems which needs to be solved. This is where robotic fabrication, such as 3d printing, proves to be the most viable solution, as traditional methods such as human labour and various construction tools and machines are not easily accessible. Teo’s research is interested in touching the surface of solutions to 3d printing buildings and shelter in the early stages of Mars colonisation.

Sebastian talked to Graduate House about the remarkable world of 3d printing.

3d is extremely basic in principle, and is essentially used to describe various types of processes which end in a three-dimensional object, explains Teo.

“While there are many different types of 3d printing which exist and are out there, the most common and usually thought of when 3d printing is mentioned is Direct Deposition, which extrudes, or deposits, material in layers to build up to the desired object,”
he said.

Teo explains that the most accessible 3d printers today usually use polymer plastic materials, mainly polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable plastic, and what your takeaway coffee lids are made of for example, and Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS), the material which is, for example, what LegoTM is made from.

“There is research and development happening which looks at different ways to extrude other materials such as metals, fibreglass, concrete, and glass, always seeking to change the way we can find new ways to use these materials,” said Teo.

“3d printers can range from small machines that can fit on your desk, to industrial robot arms with extrusion systems, and even large scale 3d crane printing.”

Teo says that while 3d printing in architecture is not so prevalent today, he does believe it will emerge at an exponential rate in the not-so-distant future.

“The benefits of robotic fabrication are proving to, I believe, outweigh the way traditional architectural practice works,” he says.

“This can be said in terms of fabricating forms which would be deemed not possible by traditional means, or monetary, where the running cost of robotic fabrication and savings of efficient material used will end in cheaper overall costs.”

Teo says that he is a believer that everything is and has to evolve, and while there is much to admire and learn from the ‘classics’, the ever changing current needs of society must be catered to, even architectural language and construction.

He cites the recent of example of Dubai where the government has placed laws which will require at least 25 percent of all buildings to be 3d printed by the year 2030, and recently approved plans for the world’s first 3d printed tower.

There are many issues before the idea of 3d printed buildings can become the norm, however.

“While in places like Dubai, where construction workers have poor working standards and extremely low wages, the introduction of robotic fabrication can be beneficial in improving human rights issues, places like our home in Australia, where the trade unions have a strong presence, might raise issues in having robots taking the roles of construction trades,” he says.

“These will be issues that will come up in the future, and it will be interesting to see how they will be dealt with.”

“I believe that the role of construction workers, and even architects, will have to shift and change in the future, which is not something that has not happened in the past, where the role of the architect has changed countlessly since old Roman times.”

“I believe the world and particularly in the field of architecture, construction workers, architects, engineers and other consultants will have to learn and work in collaboration with robots and advanced machines, rather than having robots replace us,” said Teo.

“I think we live in an extremely exciting time in history, where we are able to see the rapid development of technologies, robots, space exploration and how it affects society in not only architecture, but all fields and daily activities,” he said.

“I encourage anyone who is remotely interested in technology and whatever fields of work and study or even hobbies, to embrace and be open to the change, and you may find a different perspective!”

“In relation to architecture, the larger scale 3d printing processes are most beneficial in an architectural outcomes.”