May 19, 2016 | By Benedict

Designers Ron Culver and Joseph Sarafian have developed a new construction method which involves casting concrete in sleeves of Lycra fabric, which are then stretched into position using programmed robotic arms. 3D printed couplers are then used to connect sections of the shaped concrete together.

Additive manufacturing is, brick by brick, turning itself into a valuable architectural commodity. Dubai is planning to create huge numbers of 3D printed buildings, Amsterdam could soon have a 3D printed canal house, and now architects may have an exciting new method of concrete casting at their fingertips—one which uses 3D printing to secure unusually shaped concrete structures together.

The key material in Ron Culver and Joseph Sarafian’s new concrete casting technique is not a 3D printing mainstay like PLA or ABS, but Lycra, an elastic fabric typically used for tight-fitting sportswear such as bicycle jerseys. By pouring a concrete fiberglass mixture into Y-shaped Lycra sleeves, Culver and Sarafian found that they could then use powerful six-axis robots to manipulate the concrete-filled fabric into unusual shapes. This technique helps to save on both time and money, as it enables a user to create many concrete shapes without casting a mold each time.

The pair of designers programmed the robot’s stretching movements using Grasshopper3D and Kangaroo software, enabling extremely precise manipulation of the unhardened mixture. Both Culver and Sarafian believe that this digital manipulation of concrete-stuffed fabrics could become widely adopted, and for relatively large projects too: “This casting method has implications at various scales in the construction site of the future,” Sarafian said in an interview with Dezeen. “We see it being scaled up to create unique building facade elements or even the primary structure of a building.”

45 minutes after the six-axis robots have stretched the concrete into its correct position, the Lycra-enclosed mixture hardens. When this hardening process is complete, 3D printed couplers can be used to attach several of the concrete pieces together. The 3D printed couplers, each consisting of a node and bolt, allow the concrete casting technique to be used to create larger constructs, which could form the aforementioned building facades or load-bearing structures.

Culver and Sarafian’s use of robots to stretch and manipulate fabric is the latest case in a growing architectural trend, first seen at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. Architect Achim Menges, a professor at that institution, suggested that programmed robots could create a fourth industrial revolution.

Culver and Sarafian’s new concrete casting method was devised at the University of California as part of the Fabric Forms project, an independent study supervised by Julia Koerner with contributions from Peter Vikar, Shobitha Jacob, Oscar Li, and Qi Zhang.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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MarcC IoM wrote at 5/20/2016 4:15:06 PM:

Robots not essential for this process and done before with expanding bead foams and steam.

BIG Bob wrote at 5/20/2016 10:10:59 AM:

At last, a use for my cycle shorts.....

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