Wednesday 27 April 2016

Flexible Building Skins

Adventures in 3D printing highlight several valuable examples of surfaces which accommodate double curve geometries and can even transform to create flexible skin-like surfaces.  The possibilities of these are exciting and should be of interest when considering Architecture's futuristic aspirations for moving, transforming or shape-shifting building structures.  Here are some examples of prototype flexible skins, available to print, test and experiment with:

Flexible Skins
Mesostructured Cellular Materials:  3D printed structures with the ability to deform and deflect in multiple directions as a result of their structural and geometric arrangement.

Mesostructured cellular sheet by Andreas Bastian
On Thingiverse  and his blog site

These examples by Andreas Bastian, with other examples of double curve geometries below:

Andrea's other experiments include cellular structural geometries with 3D printing, post-formed over double curve geometries.  These also offer an insight in to how double curve skins could evolve.
Delft University is always a hub of innovation.  These student experiments have led to similar positive results:

Flexible materials developed by Students at Delft University.

Stereolithographic fabrics: There are a variety of examples of stereolithographic fabrics produced through 3D printing.

3D printed fabric developed for clothing by Richard Beckett

Chainmail: An old invention made a lot simpler to produce with 3D printing.  Geometric variations and additions to the units such as scales or feathers add to the possibilities of the material.

Chainmail by Kacie Hultgren.  Square geometry used.
Scale mail armour by Tom West.
Scales could offer some weather resistance in a building application.
Closest I've seen to replicating shark skin with flexible double curved geometries.

Hexchain: A variation on the above using tessellating shapes with mechanical flexibility to adapt to double curve surfaces.

Hex Chain from Jay Jeon.  A variation on scale mail.  

Flex Mesh: A kit of parts with mechanical flexibility between the components to allow movement and tolerance in three dimensions.

Flex Mesh uses flexible components with different geometries to achieve flexible 3D surfaces

3D printing is leading the way in fashion with developments to produce materials with mechanical flexibility to replicate fabrics.

3D printed fabrics by Iris van Herpen.  

Flexible fabrics exhibited at the NYC 3D Print Show.

Mechanically jointed geometric structures to create a flexible fabric by Kinematics

Kinematics Petal fabric

3D printed trainers are on their way from Nike and Adidas, developed with 3D printing because of the potentially superior support and mechanical flexibility which this manufacturing method might offer.

3D printer trainers coming from Nike and Adidas

3D printed clutch using rectilinear chain mail shown above. 

Clutch by Kacie Hultrgen

3D printing is drawing a lot of interest in architecture and building design, but that doesn't mean that building types need to be the same rigid structures or that site processes and prefabrication methods need to follow established patterns. It is useful to look beyond the building industry, into other areas of design and manufacture to see what neat ideas are with developing an a different scale.  Maybe one day buildings might be flexible with the ablity to move and transform as Ron Herron imagined. 

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