Some of the 3-D printer pioneers we spoke to were hesitant about talking about their dream projects. This is a young technology, they said. Who knows what we'll be working on in two years, let alone ten? Enrico Dini, though, was anything but hesitant. Dini, the Italian inventor of the D-Shape 3-D printer
, hasn't been shy about explaining his dream project. We've covered
his D-Shape printer before, and in multiple interviews, he's talked about his dream project, which is so grandiose as to almost be unbelievable. On the other hand, considering the amount of work he's done on it, maybe his bluster is justified.
Dini created the D-Shape, a 3-D printer that sets down layers of glue on granular materials like sand, creating unearthly stone-like sculptures with the types of organic curves you can't normally produce with an automated machine. So far, Dini has already used the D-Shape to make structures a few feet tall, including some eye-catching furniture, but his ambitions go much further than that. How far? Is the moon far enough for you?
Dini's dream project: Bring his D-Shape up to the moon, and use it to create buildings out of moon-dust. Some of the logistics involved in hauling a giant printer up to the moon are slightly out of Dini's hands--which government will fund it? How will it be disassembled enough to fit into a shuttle?--but he's making pretty impressive progress on the parts he can control. That includes tracking down a terrestrial material with very similar properties to moon-dust (a volcanic ash he found in Italy) and actually performing tests while in a low-gravity simulator. So far, all is going well, although Dini wants his moon-dust structures to have 1.5-meter-thick walls, which may take some extra effort.
[Pictured: The D-Shape's structures, on Earth (for now)]