Jul 29, 2016 | By Tess

Last year, our attention was turned towards a project developed by Gramazio Kohler Research and scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), which showed real promise within the field of 3D printing construction. The project, called Mesh Mould 3D, consisted of developing a method to 3D print continuous mesh structures for the creation of large-scale geometrically complex in-situ structures. At the time, the project was in its first phase and was working with the extrusion of polymer based materials. Now, almost a year later, Mesh Mould 3D has entered into its second phase: Mesh Mould Metal.

The Mesh Mould research project has, since its beginning in 2012, been investigating the “unification of reinforcement and formwork into a single robotically fabricated material system.” In other words, the joint research team has been developing a novel process for robotically extruding construction formworks (the mold that concrete is poured into to make a wall or structure)  and reinforcements to open up the possibilities for more complex and customized structures that can be built directly at the construction site. As we’ve seen with other 3D printed construction efforts and innovations, the process is also seeking to offer a more materially effective way to build (reducing waste to virtually zero).

As mentioned, we wrote about Mesh Mould 3D when it was still in its first phase, which focused on the development of a “spatial robotic extrusion process”. Having successfully completed the first phase, the researchers have now moved on to advancing their process from using polymer-based materials to using more structurally sound materials, namely metal. The goal is to create a 3D printing system that can effectively 3D print a continuous mesh structure out of a 3mm steel wire for a fully load-bearing construction system.

The 3D printing aspect consists of developing a system that is capable of automatically bending and welding the steel wire into the desired in-situ mesh structure, which will then be used as a formwork or structure reinforcement. The second research phase is being carried out at the National Competence Centre in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, and in association with Professor Jonas Buchli’s Agile & Dexterous Robotics Lab, which is helping to develop a specialized robotic end-effector for the innovative extrusion system.

What is perhaps most notable about the Mesh Mould project, especially in the face of a number of innovative 3D printing construction projects, is its turn away from layer-based additive manufacturing. That is, similar to say a 3D printing pen, the Mesh Mould system places material directly where it is meant to be, allowing for the creation of highly complex mesh structures. Like other 3D printing construction projects, Mesh Mould is hoping to broaden the scope of what is possible within the construction field.

As Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler explained last year, “A shift away from this outdated ‘one size fits all’ ideology towards a new fabrication paradigm based on flexible, robotic in-situ fabrication could promote an alternative tectonic that encourages variation and differentiation instead of being bound to geometric simplification, standardization, and repetition.”

The second phase of the research project is expected to run through to 2018.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Jac wrote at 8/12/2016 4:39:43 PM:

Thank you for this article. This is a really interesting concept that has been made out of fabricated steel wire. It's so intricate. My buddy works with steel, I think he'll get a kick out of this. I think this kind of thing is art. So cool. http://www.truckmastermfg.com/en/

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