Could 3D printing enable Notre-Dame Cathedral to rise from the ashes?

Concr3de's stone 3D printing technology can reproduce pieces from the cathedral's ashes

Concr3de, a Dutch company specializing in 3D printing stone, is offering up its additive technology for the restoration of Paris’ Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. In fact, the company has proposed using its technology to quite literally rebuild damaged parts of the cathedral from the ashes of Notre-Dame.

To demonstrate its capability, Concr3de even went ahead to produce a replacement gargoyle using its 3D printing platform and a material made from limestone and ash. The original gargoyle, known as Le Stryge, has sat on Notre-Dame’s roof since the 19th century but was severely damaged in the fire last week that rocked Paris and the world.

The 19th century gargoyle was damaged in the fire

Concr3de founders Eric Geboers and Matteo Baldassari believe that their unique stone 3D printing technology could offer an authentic way to rebuild decorative elements of the iconic cathedral. That is, by using remnant ashes from the fire to rebuild the cathedral, an element of its history could be preserved, and questions of using new materials to replicate an old design would not arise.

As Geboers said: “Isn’t a copy just a fake? Simply copying, pretending there never was a fire, would be a historical forgery.” By using the ashes of the 13th century oak beams that succumbed to the fire and repurposing the Lutetian Limestone that was damaged, Concr3de hopes to pay homage to the cathedral’s long architectural history. 

“We would break down the limestone to the right grade and the fire damage would not have an effect,” he explained.

The demonstration gargoyle was based off a 3D scan of Le Stryge taken from the internet and was printed using Concr3de’s Armadillo White 3D printer. The compact machine is a custom inkjet system that has a build volume of 300 x 300 x 300 mm. The 3D printer is capable of printing a wide range of powdered materials, including geopolymers, ceramics, metals, plastics and cementitious materials.

In addition to providing a novel way to repurpose Notre-Dame’s destroyed building materials, Concr3de’s technology could also be used to 3D print structural features at a lower cost than more traditional stone cutting techniques. For instance, Goebers says the 3D printing technology could be used to produce stone vaults to replace those damaged by the falling spire.

3D printing could also help the reconstruction effort stay within its limited timeframe of five years (though experts have said it could take decades). One of the current challenges to meeting the five year plan is in training enough stonecutters and masons to bring the project together. 3D printing, however, could alleviate some of this strain through automation.

At this stage, it is still unclear what the restoration effort will look like; we do not yet know if the future Notre-Dame will resemble its previous self or if the design will take on a more forward-thinking approach. Either way, we’re excited to see if and how 3D printing is employed for the monumental task.

[Source: Dezeen]

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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