Mar 7, 2017 | By Julia

The Politecnico di Milano, Italy’s largest technical school, has announced a special preview of its new 3D printed Trabeculae Pavilion at the upcoming Made Expo 2017. This stunning and highly experimental architecture is particularly notable for its extreme lightness, and innovative combination of biomimetic research and 3D printing.

When faced with the challenge of designing an efficient and sustainable piece of lightweight architecture, the Architecture, Computation and Technology unit (ACTLAB) of Politecnico di Milano’s architecture school turned to one of the most striking examples of a lightweight system found in nature: the bone.

The internal microstructure of organic bone, known as the trabecular bone, proved particularly inspirational to the ACTLAB team, as it follows a continuous load-responsive process of material reorganization.

“We looked into Nature to understand how lightweight and resistant architectures work with a minimized material use,” say ACTLAB representatives in an exclusive press release.

“[By] studying the internal bone microstructure, we have created algorithms which allow us to generate three dimensional cellular structures, varying in topology and sizing, with the precision of a tenth of a millimeter.”

The result is an informed, meticulously crafted cellular microstructure derived from trabecular bone structure. ACTLAB aptly calls this novel arrangement a “Functionally Graded Trabecular Structure,” referring to the Trabeculae Pavilion’s load-responsive system of interconnected solid struts with spatially varying characteristics.

The biomimetic-inspired design also incorporates a striking anticlastic shell in homage to the famously lightweight architecture of Felix Candela. Slender, free-edged shapes, combined with a load-driven structural skin come together to form a unique lattice patterning that is elegant yet functional.

ACTLAB’s use of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) was critical to carrying out such an advanced construction. 275 separate components were 3D printed on the DeltaWASP 4070 and DeltaWASP 60100 and later assembled with an integrated joinery system. Using the WASP 3D printing farm and an experimental extruder, representatives say each component takes about 10 hours to manufacture. The full pavilion can be constructed in one month.

Likewise, the appropriate choice of materials could not be overlooked. After investigating various thermoplastic composites, ACTLAB turned to a new biopolymer from FILOALFA for its ideal weight-to-strength ratio and other mechanical characteristics.

The full Trabeculae Pavilion will be fabricated and assembled in the spring of 2017. An exclusive glimpse will be offered at the Politecnico di Milano’s Piazza Leonardo Da Vinci, as part of Made Expo 2017. There, a full scale prototype of the lightweight skin system will be on display, accompanied by a production centre of 3D printers generating components of the full Trabeculae Pavilion in real time.

Based on how the prototype structure interacts with its surrounding environment, ACTLAB says it will evaluate the next steps. The entire Pavilion will be completed and exhibited in the coming months at Politecnico di Milano.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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