3D Printing and Biomimetic Research Combine to Create Lightweight Architecture Prototype: Trabeculae Pavilion

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politenico-di-milano-abcA little over a year ago, Italian artist Francesco Pacelli, once an academic researcher and educator with Politecnico di Milano‘s LAB+ 3D printing lab, was testing the limitations and abilities of WASP’s Delta 3D printers by creating ceramic designs. Obviously, the university appreciates the WASP technology, because just a few days ago, it was announced that the ABC Department (Architecture, Construction Engineering, and Built Environment) of the Politecnico di Milano would be presenting a preview of its experimental architecture, the 3D printed Trabeculae Pavilion, which was created using WASP 3D printers. The unusual architecture, which combines biomimetic research with 3D printing, will be previewed at the upcoming Made Expo 2017.

made-expo-logoThe expo begins this Wednesday, March 8th, and visitors can take a look at the in-progress lightweight architecture prototype at the Politecnico di Milano’s booth in the BSmart! area, in Pavilion 10 of Feira Milano-Rho. This isn’t the first time Politecnico di Milano has turned to a combination of 3D printing and nature in order to create, and by the looks of the amazing Trabeculae Pavilion, I’m certain it won’t be the last. The prototype demonstrates the “revolutionary potential of computational design and 3D printing for constructions.”

actlab-trabeculae-pavilionThe Trabeculae Pavilion project was born from additive manufacturing-concentrated research, used to devise “novel solutions” to reduce how often material resources are subjected to exploitation.

“The last decades have witnessed an exponential growth in the demand of raw materials due to the rapid industrialization of emerging economies and the high consumption of materials,” explained Roberto Naboni, project leader, architect and researcher at Politecnico di Milano, together with Politecnico di Milano’s Ingrid Paoletti, Associate Professor in Building Technology. “This research looks at biological models and the opportunities offered by the new additive production technologies in order to find sustainable solutions to the exploitation of materials. Our objective is to explore a new type of non-standard architecture: advanced, efficient, and sustainable.”

actlab-logo3D printing is seeing increasing use in architectural projects, and some even say the technology could change the face of the field itself. The Trabeculae Pavilion project was promoted by ACTLAB, a research unit that’s part of the ABC Department and founded by Naboni and Paoletti in 2014. ACTLAB specializes in computational design and complex modeling, digital fabrication, material systems and emergent technologies, and BIM (Building Information Modeling) and interoperability. The unit strives to explore the intersection of architecture with advanced manufacturing, computational techniques, and innovative materials.

actlab-trabeculae-pavilion-closeupThe pavilion itself is actually a full-scale demonstrator, and the entire lightweight skin system was 3D printed. Together with industrial partner FILOALFA, a high-resistance biopolymer was developed, to elevate the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing process for the purpose of large-scale construction. The building components were fabricated using a highly accurate, continuous production process that’s based on a WASP Delta printing farm.

According to the ABC Department of Politecnico di Milano, “The use of an experimental extruder is introduced to shape stiff components within a minimized amount of time. The synergy of design, material and manufacturing technologies allowed the conceptualization of an innovative construction technique based on an additive process which builds architectural forms conceived with a load-response material organization.”

The interdisciplinary research process for the Trabeculae Pavilion, which involved the fields of advanced manufacturing, biomimetics, computational design, and material engineering, will be presented at the expo this week.

Naboni and Paoletti explained, “We looked into Nature to understand how lightweight and resistant structures work with a minimized material use. Studying the internal bone microstructure, we have created algorithms which allow us to generate three dimensional cellular structures, varying in topology and sizing, with the precision of a tenth of millimeter.”

actlab-trabeculae-pavilion-3d-printersThe full-scale prototype will also be there, along with a 3D printer production center that will be busily generating Trabeculae Pavilion components live at the expo; these components will be completed and later displayed, as part of the full Trabeculae Pavilion, at the Politecnico di Milano. Discuss in the 3D Printed Pavilion forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images provided by WASP]
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