3D printing for sustainable architecture: Zero-Wastage in construction, but perfectly shaped, fast and efficient

3D printing technologies make it easier for the construction industry to adapt to changing conditions. The AI-Table project stands as a true symbol. Rising raw material prices, fragile supply chains, growing time pressure and maximum environmental awareness:

The construction industry is being confronted with changing conditions on a wide variety of levels. Although the digitization of workflows is advancing in this industry, it has so far focused more on planning and administrative tasks than on end-to-end data-driven processes, from design to the actual structural element. Advanced 3D printing creates the necessary basis for future-oriented architectural projects.

At first glance, they are just a few table legs. The filigree, interwoven structures could be the work of a designer, inspired by observations made during a walk in the forest. To ensure that such fragile-looking structures do not collapse under the weight of a heavy tabletop, however, profound knowledge of the calculation of static loads is required in addition to artistic skill.

In fact, the idea behind these branching table legs is not just based on the creative mind of a human being, but also the AI functionality of Autodesk Fusion 360 software combined with powerful 3D printing technology and traditional metal casting. The idea was born in Singapore at the Architectural Intelligence Research Lab (AIRLAB), a design research laboratory from the Singapore University of Technology where the idea of reliably absorbing the structural forces of the tabletop while using a minimum amount of material was discussed. The material of choice turned to bronze. Therefore, a positive pattern made of polymethyl methacrylate (short PMMA) was 3D printed, and the patterns were then transformed into cast parts by the renowned art foundry Strassacker, based in Germany. To cast the parts, the foundry molded the PMMA patterns into a ceramic shell that met the high-precision specifications. And as filigree as the end product may appear, in terms of stability these table legs are fully equal to a solid construction. The difference is made by a significantly reduced material input thanks to AI-assisted design and printed casting.
Filigree furniture design as a role model for 3D-printed building elements

Under the direction of architecture professors Carlos Bañón from Spain and Felix Raspall from Argentina, AIRLAB is dedicated to the question of how high-performance constructions can be realized with technological support and minimized use of raw materials. The focus is on digital design and manufacturing methods such as structural optimization and 3D printing, with the help of which Bañón and Raspall want to firmly establish the idea of sustainability in the world of architecture. The table legs, which were created with the support of voxeljet, form a blueprint, so to speak, for a wide variety of design and construction projects of all types and sizes.

„3D printing offers us the opportunity to create real products from digitally optimized structures that would be difficult to manufacture conventionally", Carlos Bañón, Co-Founder and Director - AIRLAB – Singapore

“3D printing gives us the opportunity to create real products from digitally optimized structures,” explains Carlos Bañón. “With conventional manufacturing processes, it would be impossible to create a real-world usable component based on the values generated by the software in terms of structural optimization, weight reduction and high performance. With advanced 3D printing technologies, on the other hand, this is easily achievable.” Felix Raspall adds, “In architecture, the design process traditionally starts with conceptual sketches and then leads to a highly technical project, culminating in the production phase. By incorporating algorithms into the design phase and 3D printing into manufacturing, we open up completely different creative dimensions with new levels of formal and material freedom.”
"3D printing brings sustainability to the world of architecture"

For architect and AIRLAB co-founder Carlos Bañón, one thing is certain: “Sustainability is the most urgent challenge of this century, and the construction industry plays a large and important role in this – simply because of its size and the lifespan of the products it generates.”

For fifteen years the team from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin dug in the Sudanese desert and restored historically valuable items. The exhibition “Naga City of Kings” at the Kunstforum of the Berliner Volksbank Foundation now presents the impressive results of this work. Visitors can even glimpse an actual model of the famous Hathor Chapel, which was produced by voxeljet using the 3D printing method Binder Jetting.

voxeljet AG 3D-printed the highly complex formwork for the DFAB House (digitally fabricated house) research project in the NEST (Next Evolution in Sustainable Building Technologies) of the EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research). This is a 78 m2 lightweight concrete slab as a statically optimised and functionally integrated floor slab with an unusually complex shape. 3D printing with the "powder-binding-jetting" process has once again proven its worth here.

We are proud to announce that 14 Trees, a joint venture between LafargeHolcim and CDC group, is using our BOD2 printer to print low-carbon housing and schools in Malawi. The walls of a first demo building in Lilongwe, Malawi was done in just 14 hours and the walls of a first school in just 18 hours.

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