Digital Building Structure Fabrication


Most metal 3D printing processes are severely limited in scale based on the volume of material (green state) needed for preparation to make a finished part. Even though the processes use only the necessary amount of green material to make the finished part, the volume of green material required is the same as tradition machining techniques (a process in which material is cut away to make a finished part). This can be called a bounding-box methodology. For example, if you wanted to make a metal part with overall dimensions of  20x20x5’, you would need about 2,000 cubic feet of metal powder and a bounding-box in which to contain the powder. DBSF eliminates this bounding-box by printing the outlining bounding formwork into which the green state material will be deposited. DBSF is system that prints the target structural shape in an outline of green material. The size can range from large scale solid-metal artwork to an entire building structure. The context within which this system has been envisioned is a building where the skin and structure are the same (monocoque) using a voronoi pattern.

As is with current metal 3D printing processes, the excess material used by DBSF is reusable.

System Elements

1 - Parametric Structure Computation
Incorporation of physical parameters with digital form generation. The physical parameters are building structure stresses (i.e. wind, seismic and gravity). Based on these physical paramters you will be able to generate a structurally sound digital form that is sent to a 3D printer and the entire structure is printed from its base to the finished elevation with varying degrees of pattern density and/or thickness. The context pattern density shown here is a voronoi pattern.
Neri Oxman - Assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab

2 - SLM (Selective Laser Melting)
This is an additive manufacture process that fully melts metal powder (green state) into solid homogeneous masses using a high-powered laser beam. This process will be used to create the target building structure shape. In addition the metal powder is deposited and smoothed, layer by layer, by the SLM printer unit. These systems will also incorporate the distributing of a ceramic powder to insulate the resin outline formwork from heat-energy conduction.

3 - Photoactive Resin
This 3D printer material medium was created by the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) in which the resin is hardened by a laser beam. This process is called “Two-photon-induced photopoly-merization (2PP)” Using this resin formula, the 3D printer will create an outlining bounding formwork for the metal, ceramic powder, and target building structure shape. This printing unit will also create the necessary bracing to support the building structure shape until completion, which eliminates the need to print metal support struts.
Jan Torgersen & Prof. Jürgen Stampfl - Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Vienna University of Technology

4 - D-Shape
The largest 3D printer, developed by Dr. Enrico Dini. DBSF will be using D-Shape’s printing structure design concept to print over large areas.

Outline 3D printing

1 - Outlining Bounding Formwork
2 - Insulation Layer - Ceramic
3 - Metal Powder Layer
4 - Target Shape

Photoactive Resin Printer Unit - Outlining Bounding Formwork & Supports
SLM & Powder Distribution Printer Unit
Resupply Station for Printer Units

-The printer tracks are raised and lowered via pulleys.
-Because the tracks are electrified no wires or cable trays are needed.
-As the printer units exhaust their supply of green material they will return to resupply stations.

Competition Results


Problems Solved

Great news! I have created a fabrication system that has solved the problems of natural light, structure and skin.

Over the past 5 months I have been trying to envision a structure form that would enhance the sensation of exploring a cavern and/or cave. I had no success; all ideas required a 2 layer web system and caverns are homogenous masses. (hint, hint)

And then it hit me (more like at staring me in face). Thickness; the oldest form of architecture. I was trying to work with a shell rather than simply add thickness to the Voronoi pattern.

But that's not all...
I can't go into detail as to how and what will create this building structure until June 18th. All I can say is, check this out...


Uploaded Maya Terrain Test

I have uploaded my Maya Terrain Test application for both the Mac & PC so you can experience the effortlessness of a Unity created interactive digital environment.

Just unzip the files to your desktop and launch the .app for Mac or the .exe for Windows.


To quit for Mac press ⌘+Q
To quit for Window press ALT+F4


A Way to Create an Interactive Model

There are various ways to make a digital model interactive for the client, however it is almost always controlled by the designer or architect.

Over Christmas I came across a game development program called Unity. This program allows a developer to create a game for Mac & PC, iPhone & Android, PS3, XBox & Wii.

I did not think much of Unity at the time; just intrigued by the number of OS it supported. Three days ago I visited the Unity website again and read Unity is free and easy to learn for non-game developers. After further reading, watching videos and looking a which 3D modeling programs work with Unity I decided to test it out.

Today, in a matter a few hours I used Maya (because it uses NURBS like Rhino and works on a Mac OS X) to test importing a surface mesh or polygon to be used as terrain. I then used a Java Script in wiki to change the object into a terrain. The results were amazing!


Concept Building Design

The building concept is to create a cavern or cave much like the old wine caves in Europe. The first problem is wine caves have no natural light; which is necessary for the function of a museum. The second problem is a structure and skin system that would allow the museum to expand.

MIT Media Laboratory has developed a prototype system that offers the best solution to my second problem. Thanks to Björn Förstberg's thesis project and blog I was able to use his Grasshopper definition to create my first concepts.

The Voronoi pattern is the partitioning of a plane with “x” number of points into convex polygons such that each polygon contains exactly one generating point and every point in a given polygon is closer to its generating point than to any other. A Voronoi diagram is sometimes also known as a Dirichlet tessellation. The cells are called Dirichlet regions, Thiessen polytopes, or Voronoi polygons.


DTM (Digital Terrain Model)

My first order of business is to create a DTM. Ever since I leaned Rhino I never found a Rhinoscript or modeling method that would create accurate terrain in NURBS.

Several months ago I found a Grasshopper build by Hyoung-Gul Kook

This method only works if the contour lines are perpendicular to the section points and some twisting with the loft occurs.

Recently I found an older method, by Philix, using a network of curves to create a DTM.
I will attempt to use Grasshopper to combine these two methods.

A New Start

This begins the log for the National Wine Museum thesis project.
Here I will document the processes used, modeling and rendering techniques. I will not be alone in this journey.