NOWlab, the innovation department of large-scale 3D printer manufacturer BigRep, has completed a smart architecture project with Immensa Technology Labs, a company dedicated to the advancement of 3D printing throughout the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The so-termed Smart Concrete Wall takes on the shape of a hexagonal grid inspired by Ancient Arabic tiling. It has an adaptive surface, activated by touch, and it couldn’t be made without the use of 3D printing.
How is it made?
The NOWlab wall is made by a concrete casting process.
In the first step, molds are made on the BigRep ONE 3D printer, an FFF machine with a build area of 1005 mm x 1005 mm x 1005 mm (XYZ). When stacked together in three, these molds combine to create a shape which is then filled with concrete and left to set.
In the second stage of the process, 3D printed lights and cable channels for electronics are added to the concrete framework. Attached to a capacity sensor in another of the hexagonal compartments, these lights are activated by touch.
A patented technology
In this collaboration, NOWlab was responsible for the concept and design of the Smart Concrete Wall, and Immensa 3D printed the formwork on its in-house BigRep ONE 3D printer. UAE construction firm, Consolidated Contractors Company, was engaged by Immensa to perform the casting.
The formwork concrete casting technology used in the project is actually a patented process from BigRep, the IP of which was filed in 2016 and subsequently granted in April 2018.
Teaching old architecture new tricks
With the Smart Concrete Wall, NOWlab is reviving an old, and typically expensive construction technique yielding innovative forms that would be otherwise impossible to make with traditionally made molds.
A similar approach was recently taken by researchers at ETH Zurich that used 3D printed sand cast to make a metal facade. At New York architectural design studio EDG, practitioners are also examining 3D printed casting’s ability to renovate dilapidated buildings.
Recently Jörg Petri, co-founder of NOWlab and Head of Research & Applications at BigRep has been hosting webinars on the potential of 3D printed formwork for construction, so there may still be more to come from this innovative project.
Featured image shows the NOWlab and Immensa Technology Labs’ Smart Concrete Wall. Photo via NOWlab/Immensa