Jan 12, 2017 | By Tess

Materials science company Arconic has a vision of the future that we can get behind. Inspired by the 1960s cartoon The Jetsons (set in the year 2062), the company has proposed a new concept for a skyscraper: one that reaches three miles up into the sky, and that integrates innovative self-cleaning and 3D printed materials.

Part of Arconic’s appropriately titled “Jetsons” campaign, the skyscraper was conceived of by company engineers in partnership with futurists. So while they may not be ready to break ground on the project just yet, we very well could be working or even living in these buildings in decades to come. Imagine waking up, opening the curtains, and finding yourself peering out at the clouds. Amazing.

Arconic has laid out three main points of interest for their futuristic skyscrapers: organic facades made from 3D printed building materials; active, self-cleaning coating technology; and energy-efficient protective framing technology. By focusing on these key areas, and developing new materials and technologies to realize them, the company is confident that its proposed architectural concept could become a reality.

3D printing, which has opened up various possibilities across the field of architecture, would be crucial to the future towers, as it could provide a way to design and manufacture complex, organically-inspired structures, which could in turn be optimized so that building three miles up would be possible. Sherri McCleary, a chief materials scientist at Arconic, explains that 3D printing can be exploited to create very strong structures capable of withstanding a range of climates and even extreme winds.

Of course, there is still much work to be done, as 3D printed building materials, while quickly advancing, are still quite a way away from building skyscrapers of the imagined scale. Currently, advancing said materials is one of Arconic’s main goals. “We’re looking at optimizing the materials that can be 3D printed to give more and more options to designers and architects,” McCleary explained.

In addition to 3D printing, McCleary emphasized the significance of self-cleaning building coatings, which simultaneously work to purify the structure’s surrounding air. One such coating is called EcoClean, which provides a number of benefits in terms of aesthetics, building maintenance, and environmental impact. Released in 2011, EcoClean works to reduce pollutants in the air around the building through the interaction between chemicals in the material and light and water vapor from the environment. According to Arconic, the combination of elements result in free radical atoms, which not only pull in pollutants, but break them down.


The third point of focus, energy-efficient protective framing technology, concerns windows. The company has devised a new window structure called Bloomframe, which—in the simplest terms—consists of a motorized window that can convert an open balcony into a glass-enclosed one in less than a minute. The technology for this already exists, and Arconic has been eagerly showing it off at various trade shows. Bloomframe has obvious advantages in terms of thermal performance, and would also allow the buildings to transform themselves, so to speak, rather than being immobile and passive.

In addition to the amazing three-mile-high skyscrapers, Arconic has also proposed futuristic flying cars, aircraft, and space exploration vehicles. As mentioned, the inspiration behind the futuristic vision was largely drawn from The Jetsons. As Arconic states on their website, “It’s amazing to see how much The Jetsons got right, predicting things like smartwatches, tablets and 3D printing; and that made us wonder what else might still be in store. Flying cars? Extraordinary buildings?”



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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