Imagine being in a building in which soft light comes in on all sides. It’s fully protected from the elements, private, and enclosed, but translucent. That’s the concept that researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed. Using a 3D printer, they have created a sample of a building façade that is both translucent and multi-functional. It’s one of the first functionally integrated building façade elements to be produced using 3D printing.
The project was led by Moritz Mungenast, research fellow at the Associate Professorship of Architectural Design and Building Envelope at TUM. A sample piece of façade was 3D printed from translucent plastic, 60 cm wide and one meter high. It’s pretty to look at, but it also serves numerous functional purposes. First of all, it’s sturdy and stable enough to protect a building. Cells inside the piece help to provide that stability while also creating air-filled cavities for insulation. The material was 3D printed in waves to create shadows, and thin embedded tubes allow air to circulate from one end of the piece to the other, providing optimum ventilation. The micro-structured surface allows for ideal acoustics, and the whole thing can be scaled and adapted to meet individual needs without additional cost.
“3D printing opens up design possibilities that were unthinkable in the past,” said Mungenast. “We can take advantage of this freedom to integrate functions such as ventilation, shading and air conditioning. This eliminates the previous need for expensive sensors, control programs and motors.”
The design concept is called Fluid Morphology, and it really does look fluid. The surface of the structure isn’t uniform at all; it ripples and bulges, gets thicker and thinner, with no apparent pattern. However, according to Mungenast, the design of the wave structure is very deliberate.
“Design and function are closely interdependent,” he said. “For example we can arrange the waves so that they protect the facade from heat in the summer and let in as much light as possible in the winter.”
The façade design has to go through some thorough testing before it actually appears on any buildings, though. Over the course of a year, a complete 1.6 x 2.8 meter façade element will be tested at TUM’s solar station, a testing installation on the main TUM campus. During that time, sensors will collect data that tells the researchers how much light penetrates the 3D printed façade, and where; how resistant they are to UV radiation and weather; and how efficiently they insulate. The researchers and architects will use this data to improve the design before creating prototypes in polycarbonate, a material certified for use in façades.
Mungenast envisions the translucent façades being used for structures like museums, libraries, shopping centers and assembly rooms.
“Special solutions are called for here in particular, and it doesn’t matter at all that the plastic facades from the 3D printer aren’t completely transparent like glass panes, but rather translucent,” he said. “The penetrating light creates an entirely unique and thoroughly attractive atmosphere.”
Support for the project was provided by the Research Lab of the TUM Department of Architecture as well as by 3D printer manufacturer Deltatower and PICCO’s 3D World.
Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below.[Photos: Andreas Heddergott]
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
Rapidia Re-emerges with Sub-$100K Bound Metal 3D Printing
In the lead up to their merger, there was an interesting bout of competition between Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) and ExOne. In the process, the latter company made a unique...
3D Printing News Unpeeled: Failure to Ignite, Synchrotrons and Connectors
Relativity Space‘s rocket did launch after two failed attempts but the second stage failed to ignite. This is a terrible event in 3D printing. It makes us all look bad and...
Divergent Reveals Automated Assembly of 3D Printed Drone for General Atomics
It’s safe to say that, if you know Divergent Technologies is on the bill at a trade show, you need to get to that presentation. At the Additive Manufacturing Users...
3D Printing Webinar & Event Roundup: March 19, 2023
We’ve got lots of events to tell you about in this week’s roundup, starting, of course, with AMUG 2023 in Chicago. There’s also the Silicone Expo Europe, Engineering Solutions Live,...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.