Sep 12, 2017 | By Benedict

Architects at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed 3D printable translucent facade elements for architectural design. The 3D printed building envelope concept, called “Fluid Morphology,” can provide ventilation, insulation, and shading.

Thanks to regular improvements in concrete 3D printing and other large-scale additive manufacturing techniques, 3D printed buildings are on the rise—quite literally. But search for pictures of 3D printed buildings and structures, and you’ll find a pattern: most of these buildings have 3D printed structural elements made from concrete or a special printable mortar; few have smooth, presentable 3D printed facades.

There are exceptions, of course, but the construction additive manufacturing of today tends to focus on the structural elements of a building. And that’s fine: after all, strong foundations need to be laid before other aspects can be considered. However, the prevalence of 3D printed internal elements makes the appearance of beautiful 3D printed facades all the more exciting.

And TUM’s new 3D printed facades are indeed very exciting. Each 3D printed facade element, measuring 60 centimeters wide and one meter high, integrates functions such as ventilation, insulation, and shading, while the transparent printed plastic of the elements looks a darn sight sleeker than the layered concrete blobs we’re used to seeing.

Amazingly, the 3D printed facade elements are also weatherproof. “And not only is the facade element very stable, it's also translucent and multi-functional,” says Moritz Mungenast, research fellow at the Associate Professorship of Architectural Design and Building Envelope at TUM.

Some of these functions are provided by cells inside the elements which provide stability while creating air-filled cavities for insulation. Shadows are created by waves in the material, diffusing light in a manner specified by the architect, and embedded tubes allow air to circulate from one side of the 3D printed element to the other.

The facade elements—made using FDM 3D printing with a polycarbonate material—even provide tunable acoustics, with the micro-structured surface of the 3D printed plastic allowing sound waves to pass and reflect in certain ways.

“3D printing opens up design possibilities that were unthinkable in the past,” Mungenast says. “We can take advantage of this freedom to integrate functions such as ventilation, shading, and air conditioning. This eliminates the previous need for expensive sensors, control programs, and motors.”

Besides functional elements, the 3D printed facade elements also look incredible, resulting in a veil-like cladding when assembled in large quantities. This resulting wavy surface resulted in the concept’s name: Fluid Morphology.

“Design and function are closely interdependent,” Mungenast explains, in relation to the 3D printed facade’s uneven and fluid surface shape. “For example, we can arrange the waves so that they protect the facade from heat in the summer and let in as much light as possible in the winter.”

The 3D printed elements are showing huge promise, but more tests need to be carried out before they can be certified for functions like UV protection and weatherproofing. A testing installation will therefore be set up on the main building of the TUM in Munich's Arcisstraße, where sensors will collect relevant data.

The long-term goal is to have these 3D printable facade elements incorporated into buildings like museums, libraries, shopping centers, and assembly rooms.

“Special solutions are called for here in particular,” Mungenast says. “And it doesn't matter at all that the plastic facades from the 3D printer aren't completely transparent like glass panes, but rather translucent. The penetrating light creates an entirely unique and thoroughly attractive atmosphere.”

The 3D printed facade elements were made using a 3D printer from Delta Tower, a Swiss 3D printer company.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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