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A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Siddipet, 100 km from Hyderabad, is teeming with crowds, thanks to it being the auspicious Karthika maasam (month of Karthik). But it’s no ordinary temple. The garbha gudis (sanctum sanctorum) have been made using 3D printing. Netflix documentary Print the Legend gave a glimpse of what 3D printing in construction can do. Viewers watched what a breeze it was for desktop 3D printer Makerbot to literally print a pistol. If you can dream it, you can print it. 

As curious devotees, mostly locals, ask each other, “Asal ee 3D antey yendhi (What exactly is this 3D stuff)?”, blame it on the steady fodder of 3D films and TV shows. Many expected to see an optical illusion, a matrix-kind of a temple tower, straight out of a sci-fi drama. In reality, the modak-shaped sanctum looks like the cute pumpkin carriage in the Cinderella story, minus the wheels. Resembling a sculpture made of wood or papier-mâché, this one with cream exteriors, housing Lord Ganesha’s idol, is an example of layered architecture. It looks as though over 100 circles of jute ropes of different sizes have been stacked one above the other to resemble a modak. The exteriors prompt one to run their hands instinctively over the layers, tap on it to see its strength and even punch it mildly to see if it’s hard enough.

There are crevices between the undulating outer areas, which will be sealed soon after another round of polishing. The beauty of the structure hits you only when Amit Ramchandra Ghule, chief operating officer of Simpliforge Creations says that it has been created by a robot on-site with a print time of less than 70 hours. “No humans were harmed during the making of this 3D temple,” he quips, adding that only on-site robotic equipment was used to build this 30-ft tall structure.

A patented construction mix replaced conventional concrete. Masons and design engineers gave way to robotic matrices. And the construction time was crunched in half. The temple situated in Charvitha Meadows, a 36-acre gated community near Siddipet, is the outcome of a collaboration between Apsuja Infratech, a Hyderabad-based leading construction company, and Simpliforge Creations, a Mumbai-based 3D printing construction company. A few months ago, the temple had garnered attention during the construction stage because the locals witnessed a robotic arm draw up designs and fill them with materials.

(From left) Waseem Chaudhary, Dhruv Gandhi, Hari Krishna Jeedipalli, Amit Ghule and Manoj Ogirala

Simply put, 3D printing is piling layer upon layer of material (called sequential layering) via computer-controlled robotic processes to create three-dimensional shapes. “It’s like adding layers of batter and baking it to make a frosting cream cake. It uses the fundamental concept of layer deposition. 3D printing is popular for niche segments such as automobile spare parts and in healthcare to replicate human body parts for transplant. But it’s going mainstream with construction,” Guley explains. What’s the need, or inspiration for a 3D temple now? “Creating a public space like a temple serves as a proof of concept,” says Ghule, adding that they aimed to build a structure that showcased aesthetics alongside strength, wearability and durability. Moreover, India’s less stringent regulations on this technology provided ample scope for experimentation.

Despite being a modern marvel, the temple adheres to the rules of Agama Shastra, the ancient science of temple architecture. Compared to conventional methods, constructing a 450-sqft structure with 3D printing, takes approximately three weeks, saving time, and in the long run, reducing costs by about 20 percent. “Conventional building involves manpower and manhours. In this case, we chalked out a design and fed it into a robot-compatible format. We used patented mixes specifically engineered for such construction,” explains Ghule.

The tech-enabled temple is more than a symbol of divinity. It is the amalgamation of software, construction, structural engineering, architecture, robotics, civil engineering, material science, etc. 
“Not to forget human intelligence in putting all of it together,” he concludes.

3D PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
Before the temple was planned, Ghule had installed what he calls “India’s first pedestrian bridge” in the same project. It is a walkway on a little rivulet in the landscaping zone of the 36-acre project. “The bridge which took two hours to be built offsite and installed here can withstand weights up to 4,300 kg or as much as an African elephant,” he says. IIT Hyderabad approved the design structure and its strength, load testing, and functional use.

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