Aug 17, 2017 | By David

Recent research by a team of students in the Netherlands made use of 3D printing technology to potentially change the way houses are built in the future. The project, which was a collaboration between Delft University of Technology and Eindhoven University of Technology, showed how a facade system could be 3D printed with a complex structure that would enable the optimization of a building’s thermal performance. Known as Spong3D, the facade is adaptable to different climate conditions, and it could have a major positive impact on the worlds of architecture and construction.

Spong3D is a facade system that can be installed inside a wall. 3D printing technology allows it to be produced with a complex structure that integrates multiple functions- thermal insulation as well as heat storage. Central air cavities of various sizes provide the necessary insulation, while a moveable liquid flows through a series of channels around the outer edges, storing heat when needed.

The dual system approach, incorporated into one component through a 3D printed structure, means that an occupant can have a very high degree of control over the heat exchange between the outside and the inside of a building. Controlling temperature is a simple matter of moving the liquid around, using it as a movable thermal mass that can fill up or empty the air pockets as required. Over the course of the year, as seasons change and external temperatures fluctuate, the internal climate of a house could be maintained at a constant level. The system would also decrease the negative environmental impact of a particular building, as the amount of energy used up for heating or air conditioning could be significantly reduced.

The Spong3D facade that the team produced was a proof of concept, with several key sub-goals for the research. They wanted to investigate the factors affecting heat storage and insulation, as well as optimize the 3D printing production process, and also examine the specific effects that the facade would have on a room.

To optimize thermal performance, several samples with different geometric configurations of porous structures were designed and tested. The aim of these trials was to minimize the flow resistance as much as possible, achieve an acceptable water tightness, and minimize the production time. After initially determining that thermal resistance was dependent on the porosity of the facade, the first set of samples designed were based on ordered, polyhedral cellular structures. They were 3D printed using PETG filament, which has a low level of thermal conductivity. These samples performed well for thermal criteria and structural robustness, but caused challenges with regard to the 3D printing process. Eventually the structures were enlarged, to reduce printing errors by making the facade’s curved geometry smoother.

As for the channels, they were based on natural fluid-carrying configurations like blood vessels or the veins of leaves. Two reversed pumps are integrated into the external layers of the facade panels. In a cooling situation, the liquid is placed on the inside to absorb any internal heat, and is then pumped to the outer layer to discharge the heat to the cool night air outside. In the alternative case, for heating the room, the liquid will be placed outside to absorb any solar heat during daytime. This can then be pumped to the inside to release the heat inside the building, through the walls. The pumps are also linked up to a water tank, which stores the water when necessary.

To finally assess the performance of Spong3D, a simulation was carried out of its thermal impact. According to this model, a cooling rate of 25 W/ square meter was possible during average summer conditions. This is roughly 50 percent of the expected heat gains in a typical office environment. As for the winter performance, this was even better. 4.8 kWh of thermal energy could be harvested for a typical 12 m2 office space on a moderate winter day. This would account for approximately 70% of the average corresponding heating demand. Given these results, architects, interior designers and the environmentally concerned alike would do well to pay attention to the future development of the Spong3D project.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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