BigRep and NOWLAB Show Off Green Thumb with 3D Printed Green Wall Prototype

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NOWLAB, the innovation department of large-format 3D printing leader BigRep, has built walls before, but not like the one it just introduced. The BigRep Innovation Consultancy recently premiered its new BANYAN ECO WALL prototype, which is the first 3D printed, irrigated green wall in the world that includes its own embedded water supply and drainage system.

“Our BANYAN ECO WALL is adopting nature’s principle with a complex, smart, and elegant design only achievable with AM,” said BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer, PhD. “Traditional technologies such as milling or injection molding cannot deliver this level of complexity and dual functionality. For the first time, thanks to AM and advanced CAD software, it is now possible to create complex functional designs within a fully digitized process chain.”

Mirek Claßen, Tobias Storz, and Lindsay Lawson were the lead designers for the prototype wall, which features a bionic design and multipurpose, embedded AM functionalities. The idea behind the BANYAN ECO WALL – created using BigRep’s serial production, large-scale FFF 3D printers – was inspired by the properties of plant systems, like the leaves, roots, and stem. Measuring 2000 x 2000 x 600 mm, the wall is a support structure for plants, while at the same time acting as a water supply system.

The BANYAN ECO WALL is made up of four 3D printed segments, and is a game-changer in terms of vertical farm technology with its size, functionality, and design. The overall structure was printed out of BigRep’s PETG material, with the 3D printed planters were made with the company’s Black PRO HT.

“Generative design software was crucial in the creation of the BANYAN ECO WALL to optimize the structure for printability and stability while allowing a rapid iterative design process,” explained Daniel Büning, the CIO for BigRep and the Managing Director of NOWLAB. “This prototype will push the boundaries of AM not only in irrigated plant systems, such as in vertical farming and green facades, but for any application requiring embedded functionalities.”

The bionic design for the BANYAN ECO WALL isn’t meant to just look nice – it’s actually structurally optimized, with plant carriers that organically snap right into place. Other irrigation systems in the world offer plants a controlled supply of water at various intervals, to make sure that humans don’t need to intervene in order to keep crops and plants alive and healthy. NOWLAB’s 3D printed wall follows this example by providing miniature internal channels, which offer optimal water flow using an integrated “micro shower” mechanism that keeps the plants irrigated exactly where they need to be.

Drainage systems are necessary for a fully-functioning integrated irrigation system as a way to remove excess water. Typically, 3D printed green walls use either metal drainage systems that are integrated into the wall at a later time, or are based on complex, confusing systems with multiple parts. But, the BANYAN ECO WALL’s embedded drainage system was actually created during the 3D printing process, which is a first for the industry and makes this project even more exciting.

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[Images: BigRep]
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