Master of Science in Sustainable Design students at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Architecture are shaping the future of building design by remodeling granular materials into new forms that show the potential for material reuse and sustainable design.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 600 million tons of construction and demolition material debris were generated in the United States in 2018, leading CMU students to investigate advanced manufacturing technologies that shape pulverized construction materials more efficiently with less volume and waste. The team uses ExOne binder jetting to re-shape architectural components that capitalize on devolumization in construction with the low carbon footprint of concrete unit mass. 

Cradle rocking planters were developed for the local Hazelwood Green industrial-site revitalization. Binder jet 3D printing offers the material flexibility to investigate reclaimed materials for more sustainable architecture. Additionally, the design flexibility to create complex, eco-friendly geometries allows the team to develop architecture that revitalizes nature and encourages community growth though environmental engagement and stewardship. The team has tested material properties while studying surface patterns for plant growth and rainwater collection. 

Ecologically intelligent customization and bespoke design are truly enabled by technology like binder jetting... You end up shaping materials differently once you start to prioritize climate-specific concerns and environmental ethics, and 3D printing allows us to design without limitations.

Dana Cupkova
Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture


Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) global leadership in the research and development of advanced technologies and materials science is rapidly transforming manufacturing and catalyzing economic development. CMU's Manufacturing Futures Institute (MFI) aims to converge mindshare from interdisciplinary efforts across the university to foster innovations. It manages Mill 19 advanced manufacturing facility housing the ExOne M-Flex® that enables the material research for Cupkova’s mission of building value-added design in modular construction. “Additive manufacturing promises to address the gap between high-performance building design and manufacturing for the future of smarter buildings,” she said.

The design freedom of additive manufacturing enables devolumization strategies for more efficient material use as well as the integration of complex patterning. Additionally, the material flexibility of the ExOne binder jetting process allows innovative research into the use of reclaimed materials for more sustainable waste streams and building construction.

The design freedom of 3D printing enables surface patterning to encourage plant growth and provide rainwater management as well as devolumization for more efficient construction.  

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Learn How CMU's School of Architecture uses ExOne binder jet technology to 3D print cradle rockers that help reclaim nature in the Steel City with smarter architecture for stronger, healthier communities.

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