ETH Zurich Students Cast Elaborate Metal Architectural Structures with 3D Printed Molds

The innovative researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland are becoming quite well-known for their advanced design and construction techniques, especially when it comes to their work with molds. 3D printed molds can be used to help fabricate everything from jewelry and chess pieces to medical implants and wind turbines, but a group of masters students from the university’s Architecture and Digital Fabrication course are currently interested in creating 3D printed molds for the architecture field.

Together with ETH Zurich senior researcher Mania Aghaei Meibodi, they have developed a new method for casting complex metal architectural structures using 3D printed molds.

Aghaei Meibodi, who researches how 3D printing can help create bespoke metal building elements, said, “Cast metal parts have a long tradition in architecture due to their extraordinary structural properties and possible 3D form.

“Today the amount of manual labour involved, especially in the mould-making process makes them too expensive.

“With our approach using 3D-printed moulds, we make it possible and affordable again to fabricate bespoke structural metal parts — parts with unseen richness of detail and geometric complexity.

“This approach can unlock an entirely new vocabulary of shapes for metal structures in architecture, previously unavailable with traditional mould-making systems.”

The one-off aluminum structure created by the Digital Building Technologies (DBT) group, called Deep Facade, is the first metal facade to be cast in 3D printed molds. Standing six meters high and four meters wide, the structure features ribbons of metal organically looped in a way that resembles the human brain’s cerebral cortex folds, and is a follow-up to a project by last year’s students called the Digital Metal Pavilion.

Aghaei Meibodi told Dezeen that the aluminum Digital Metal Pavilion, a space-frame structure made up of 240 non-repetitive joints, was the very first architectural structure to use 3D printed molds.

It only took a week to make these joints, which Aghaei Meibodi, who also chairs the DBT group, explained is 80 times faster than the more conventional processes used to fabricate complex metal parts. Using 3D printing for this type of application is obviously a far more cost-effective way to produce complex structures and forms for custom architectural projects.



It is possible to 3D print metal directly, but it’s not always the best option – it can be expensive, and can only be used with a limited range of metals with limited material properties. That’s why the DBT group uses 3D printed sand molds in casting molten metal.

Aghaei Meibodi explained, “In this synergy we benefit from the geometric freedom offered by 3D printing and the structural stability of cast metal.”

The Deep Facade structure is made of 26 articulated panels. A differential growth algorithm, which replicates the development of some living organisms, was used to fabricate the structure, which features some sections that would have been too fragile to make with concrete or sandstone.

Topology optimization, which allows for designers to take advantage of the geometrical freedoms made possible through additive manufacturing, also came into play in the DBT group’s creative process.

“Computational techniques such as topology optimisation allow designers to design lightweight parts, but the parts optimised with this technique are often difficult to manufacture through traditional methods.

“Our proposed fabrication approach doesn’t encounter the same limits as traditional manufacturing methods and can go further with shape optimisation thanks to the ability of 3D printing to print complex moulds that could be used to fabricate more efficient structures,” said Aghaei Meibodi.

Aghaei Meibodi is hopeful that her student group’s new method can one day be applied to a unique, large-scale project.

“With this new approach of casting metal, one can imagine a return of 3D detailing and 3D articulation, perhaps a fusing of ornament and structure,” she said.

“My dream application of it would be in the building envelope and interior structure of large spaces as large-span supporting structures.”

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[Images via Dezeen]

 

Upcoming 3D Printing Events Cater to Every Interest

If you’re looking for a 3D printing-related conference or event to attend in the near future, there’s no shortage of options, from Inside 3D Printing Seoul this week to the second annual Additive Manufacturing Summit in January, plus lots in between.

Additive International, formerly known as the International Conference on Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing, will be taking place in Nottingham, England on July 11th and 12th, with a pre-conference day on July 10th. The conference has been going on since 2006, and it’s always extremely informative, with this year’s event being no exception.

Topics covered this year will include using silicone inks to 3D print lifelike organ models; developing ultra-stiff, lightweight mechanical metamaterials; accelerating the development of additive manufacturing standards; printing in-orbit satellite parts; serial part production in aerospace and using innovation to handle post-processing issues.

“Additive International is really more of a summit than a conference,” said conference chair Professor Richard Hague. “It is all about bringing experts together to share knowledge, discuss ideas and to learn from one another. We pride ourselves on achieving a balance between industry and academia – presenting the very latest real world AM applications alongside exciting new developments from research labs across the globe. We don’t shy away from addressing the issues and obstacles that AM presents head-on. This honesty and transparency is part of what keeps our delegates, presenters and exhibitors returning each year to take part.”

The conference will take place at the Nottingham Belfry hotel and will feature a lineup of expert speakers, including:

  • Abi Bush, Field Ready
  • Paola Caracciolo, Airbus – Germany
  • Tiffany Chen. RMIT University
  • Alvaro Goyanes, University College London
  • Jonathan Jeffers, Imperial College London
  • Abby Juhl, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Cindy Kutchko, PPG Industries
  • Michael McAlpine, The University of Minnesota
  • Florence Montredon, Thales Alenia Space
  • Alexander Powell, ICFO – The Institute of Photonic Sciences
  • Anil K Sachdev, GM Global Research & Development
  • Mohsen Seifi, AST International
  • Christopher Spadaccini, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Iain Todd, Mapp EPSRC Future Manufacturing Hub
  • René Van Der Meer, Océ-Technologies B.V.
  • Ricky Wildman, University of Nottingham
  • Christopher Williams, Virginia Tech
  • Lijuan Zhang, National Innovation Institute of Additive Manufacturing

More than 30 organizations will be exhibiting as well; the headline sponsor will be HP. For the first time, Additive International also has a charity partner: Field Ready, which uses 3D printing to deliver medical supplies and other emergency aid in the field.

The pre-conference day, titled Business Innovation in AM, will feature presentations from 33 Innovate UK-funded additive manufacturing project teams that will explore business applications of additive manufacturing in the categories of:

  • New AM Processes
  • New Materials including Conductive Components
  • Med-Tech
  • Post processing
  • Hybrid Processes and Tooling Applications
  • Inspection Systems
  • Large Scale and Construction

Taking place at the same time, but online, will be a workshop entitled 3D Printing Fashion for Beginners, given by designer Danit Peleg. From July 10th to 12th, this virtual workshop will teach participants the history and basics of 3D printed fashion. On Day One, An Introduction to 3D Printing and Fashion, Peleg will share the story of how she got started in 3D printed fashion as well as go over the history of 3D printed fashion, more recent innovations, and the techniques, limitations and challenges presented today.

On Day Two, How to Design and Print Your Own Fashion Files Without Knowing How to 3D Model, Peleg will demonstrate the step-by-step process of creating design files without knowing 3D modeling. At the end of the session, she will review each student’s textile designs and send them off for 3D printing in her studio. Day Three, A Live Review of Participants’ Designs and Printed Pieces, will include an extended Q&A session and tips on how to proceed after the course.

The course costs $540 and is limited to 15 participants, so register today if you’re interested.

Another course will be taking place from August 8th to 10th in Frisco, Colorado. Wohlers Associates, Inc. is hosting its Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) course, offering designers, engineers and managers the chance to learn how to maximize the benefits of additive manufacturing.

“To stay competitive with AM, it is critical to give DfAM the time and effort it deserves,” said Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant and President of Wohlers Associates. “Neglecting the importance of DfAM is a mistake that most organizations will not want to make.”

The class will be led by DfAM expert Olaf Diegel, and will cover topics including the consolidation of many parts into one and methods to reduce material and weight, such as topology optimization and lattice/mesh structures. Participants will gain hands-on experience by designing and 3D printing their own parts. You can learn more and register here.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

 

Prodways Releases Compact 3D Printer With W2P

Prodways and Austrian manufacturer W2P have joined together for a fascinating new venture. Both companies are collaborating to release a Compact 3D printer, the Promaker LD-3. The printer is meant for professionals interested in dental, jewellery, education and prototyping. In keeping with this, the Promaker LD-3 will be exclusively available with a full dental package. The dental package […]

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Graphmatec develops 3D printable graphene filament

Swedish graphene nanocomposite materials developer Graphmatech, and Add North 3D, a manufacturer of desktop and industrial use 3D printer filaments, have teamed up to develop a new range of materials for use with FFF/FDM technology. Graphene-based, the new 3D printer filaments are highly conductive, ideal for thermal and electrical applications. Scaleable graphene production  Graphmatech was founded […]

Future Potato Chips Could Be 3D Printed

via MIT Technology Review

3D printing has broken out of the realm of plastic trinkets and become a part of the entire product life cycle, according to a talk by Desktop Metal cofounder John Hart at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next conference today. Hart, who is also an associate professor at MIT, says that 3-D printing can do everything from conceptualizing and prototyping a product to producing its last unit.

Additive manufacturing—the formal name for 3-D printing—is increasingly used at various life stages of an item, as well as in new industries, and Hart points to this as proof of the technology’s coming of age. He sees big companies like HP successfully creating and selling 3-D printers, eyeglass companies using the technology to disrupt the supply chain, and an uptick in additive manufacturing adoption to create aerospace parts.

Read more.

GM Increases North American Factories 3D Printing Output

Dan Grieshaber, GM’s director of global manufacturing integration, stated the majority of GM’s factories have 3D printers. Utilisation of the technologies have lately elevated, leading GM to grow and standardize operations. Now, they plan to increase it further, at least for all their North American factories. The move is likely to save GM millions of […]

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Kiel University Researchers New Method For Joining Metals Without Welding

An investigation team in the “Functional Nanomaterials” working group at Kiel University (along with the organization Phi-Stone AG also from Kiel) is promoting a flexible alternative to conventional welding and gluing processes. With a different special etching process, it allows aluminium and aluminium alloys to mend together (potentially with polymers as well) developing a sturdy […]

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APWORKS and Heraeus join SAP Distributed Manufacturing platform with AMXpert

APWORKS has announced a new software tool for industrializing metal 3D printing – AMXpert. The Taufkirchen, Germany based APWORKS has recently announced a restructuring plan that made them a subsidiary of Premium AEROTEC. Premium AEROTEC is a tier one supplier of metal components for Airbus aircraft. Heraeus Additive Manufacturing will also support the AMXpert software […]