Sep 29, 2017 | By Benedict

Massachusetts-based 3D printing company Formlabs has used its Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer and Form 2 SLA printer to fabricate the FUSE Pavilion, a nylon and fiberglass structure that spans 150 square feet and fits three people inside.

When Formlabs isn’t busy fighting off lawsuits from 3D Systems, it’s quietly putting together some of the most adored 3D printers in the world, from the game-changing Form 2 SLA 3D printer to the more recent Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer which added nylon 3D printing to the Formlabs canon.

So with a brand as strong as its own, it’s not like Formlabs needs to convince the 3D printing community of the quality of its machines.

Nonetheless, it recently attempted to do just that with the 3D printing of the FUSE Pavilion, a massive 150-square-foot structure made from parts printed on the Fuse 1 and Form 2. The structure was exhibited at FUSE 2017, the first ever conference for Formlabs users.

“To put SLS technology’s capabilities to the test, we decided to build a large pavilion structure to serve as a unique meeting space during the 2017 FUSE conference,” explains Formlabs applications engineer Amos Dudley. “We used the Fuse 1 SLS printer to produce more than a hundred unique construction modules en masse, which were assembled in four days to create a structure covering 150 square feet.”

After considering the options of 3D printing a giant Formlabs logo or the Stanford Bunny, Formlabs engineers eventually settled on the (marginally) more practical option of 3D printing a giant pavilion for its 3D printing conference.

But what kind of pavilion that would be was entirely up for discussion. After some debate, the engineers settled on what you see in the photos: an abstract-looking shape featuring almost-smooth curves, supporting rods, and large panels.

“We landed on a design derived from the equation for a mobius strip, revolved to create an enclosed meeting space surrounded by three large, sweeping blades,” Dudley says. “The blades become rigid and structural by adding a space frame to the rear side.”

The shape is impressive, but so is the scale. The pavilion measures 15 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall, and can fit three people inside. This large size required the Formlabs engineers to take into account certain considerations, including how much support the walls of the pavilion would need, and from what materials they would need to be made.

Ultimately, the team opted to print the connector nodes on the Formlabs Fuse 1 in Nylon 12, a lightweight and strong engineering thermoplastic, while hollow fiberglass tubing was used for the struts. The panels, each weighing around 100 pounds, were laser-cut from HDPE.

“Before adding the panels, a single person could easily lift the entire structure,” Dudley notes.

Fabrication equipment and materials were just one consideration though. The engineers also had to use the right design software to ensure that the 3D printer would be fabricating something sturdy and functional. In this regard, Formlabs chose Rhino to transform a basic NURBS (Non-uniform rational basis spline) surface into a space frame, while also using Grasshopper to generate connector models and edge lengths.

Dudley says that all 144 of the 3-inch Nylon 12 connectors for the pavilion were printed in a single build on the Fuse 1 in 36 hours, with part packing algorithms used to make all the pieces fit in a compact space. The much-loved Form 2, for its part, was employed to rapidly create 505 custom hangers across the space of several days. 98 of these hangers could be printed in a single print.

At the end of the day though, designing and 3D printing the FUSE Pavilion was actually the easy part. The hard part was putting all the disparate components together.

“Three people spent six hours a day for four days constructing the pavilion,” Dudley recalls. “We took the guesswork out of building the frame by projecting a 3D diagram of the structure on the wall and pre-sorting all of the parts. Even so, the build was a test of spatial reasoning and patience; simply finding and orienting each part in physical space took considerable time.”

The Formlabs team members think the 3D printed pavilion shows that Formlabs 3D printing tech could be applied to interior design, furniture, sculpture, and more.

Dudley concludes that “When we combine tomorrow’s construction methods with digital fabrication tools like the Fuse 1, there will be nothing standing in the way of architects and any form imaginable.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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