Every year, the Burning Man
gathering (its organizers insist it is not a
festival) takes place at Black Rock City, a temporary tent
metropolis in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Among its
attractions are a central temple, which is ritually burnt like
the eponymous “Man” at the end of the festival.
2018 will see a French architect Arthur
Mamou-Mani design the “Galaxia” temple, which will take the form of
twenty spiraling timber trusses converging on a center that
holds a 3D printed mandala, a nod to the shape of the Milky Way
Mamou-Mani, a lecturer at the University of Westminster
and the owner of the Fab.Pub digital fabrication laboratory in East
London, spoke to 3D printing industry about the use of 3D
software, 3D printing and robotics in the design and
realization of the Galaxia temple.
Isaac Asimov, the spiritual, and the
The name Galaxia is a reference to a
project to bring every human in the galaxy together as a part
of a single “organism” with behavior similar to that of robots.
It is concept key to the science fiction novel “I, Robot” by
It was the “I, Robot”
theme of this year’s Burning Man
that inspired Mamou-Mani to come up with the Galaxia temple
design to the Burning Man organizing committee, having produced
award-winning sculptures for
previous Burning Man gatherings.
Speaking to the Reno Gazette Journal, Mamou-Mani explained the thought process behind the
Galaxia temple design. “There are some things that are
paradoxical between this age of artificial
intelligence and the Temple, which is a very spiritual,
human thing, but we’re all one system. When it comes to the
Temple, we all feel connected,” Mamou-Mani said.
Burning Man is no stranger to 3D
printing, it is especially fitting that the design
and fabrication of this year’s secular-spiritual Galaxia
temple, a physical and human presence, involves the use of AI,
3D printing, and digital tools.
Arthur Mamou-Mani in
his workshop looking at designs developed and 3D printing using
Grasshopper 3D software. Photo via Mamou-Mani.
To design the Galaxia and mandala, Rhino and
Grasshopper 3D will be initially used for parametric modeling.
The resulting 3D models will then converted to G-Code using
Silkworm, and rendered
with Maxwell, Keyshot or Vray.
According to Mamou-Mani, using this 3D
software and 3D printers will help realize designs that would
otherwise be difficult to envisage. “Thanks to Silkworm, we are able to generate a custom
tool-path,” he explained “and therefore print in mid-air and
vary the parameters as we print.” He described this as “a kind
of ‘parametric 3D printing’ in which the printer’s parameters
are part of the design modeling.”
This process has unlocked both creativity and
efficiency in 3D printing. “We would accelerate a print when
the geometry is more stable and decelerate when it cantilevers
too much,” he said.
Manipulating the slicing process is also key
to the design. “We have also used varying e-values to under
extrude or over extrude in a specific location or do non-planar
slices,” Mamou-Mani explained.
“The potential is huge when one is not
constrained by the usual slicing process.”
This will be key to the design of the mandala,
as “in the case of the central piece we will create a
translucent teardrop with a light-scattering lattice in its
center to scatter the light and make it glow.”
The 2018 Galaxia temple
rendered at night. Image via Mamou-Mani.
3D printing the paradoxical
“The design is still under development,”
Mamou-Mani explained, but when it does finally come to
fruition, prototypes of the mandala will be 3D printed at the
Fab.Pub using a WASP4070 3D printer, while the final design
will be fabricated on a WASP3MT at the Generator, a space in
Reno, Nevada owned by Burning Man.
The mandala will be 3D printed using Excelfil
PLA filaments, a bioplastic material produced by from
German-Taiwanese company Voltivo. “It has a special silk-like
finish which I really like and that will contrast from the
filigree timber of the roof structure itself,” Mamou-Mani said.
“We used the same material for the FoodInk and Cloud Capsule
projects in London and
the 3D printing Pop-Up
As for the main timber Galaxia structure, a
1:5 model will be laser cut at the Fab.Pub, and a CNC router
will be used to create some of the angled timber pieces of the
structure. But 3D printing, automated tools, and AI may yet
play a greater role in the fabrication of the Galaxia.
“Apart from a CNC and a 3D printer, we are
keen to develop the use the Polibot for the structure, it is a cable
robot that we have developed as part of our installation
“The DNA of Making” at ARUP’s HQ” Mamou-Mani
explained. “Whether we manage to do so is another question, as
this is a robot entirely developed in-house, and it requires a
few months of further development.”
The Temple 2018 Galaxia is currently
at a fundraising stage.
Robot at Burning Man 2015
Black Rock City. Photo via Burning Man.
Nominations for the second annual 3D
Printing Industry Awards are now open. Make
your selections now.
For more stories on 3D printing and
design subscribe to our free 3D Printing Industry
newsletter, follow us
on Twitter, and like us
Featured image shows a Render of the complete Galaxia
Temple, with people inside. Image via Mamou-Mani.