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Design and Robotic Fabrication of Integrated 3D Printing Facades, 2022
PhD research project
Contemporary construction methods are widely recognized for their significant contributions to CO2 emissions and waste generation. The increasing recognition of climate change and its urgent environmental implications compels stakeholders in the modern construction sector to reassess their methods and innovate toward a sustainable future. Guidelines in this regard include using low embodied energy materials, such as timber, and transitioning from a resource-waste model to one focused on circularity.

Thermoplastics are polymer materials that become pliable or moldable at a specific elevated temperature and solidify upon cooling. For this reason, they have extremely high potential to integrate into a circular economy. In disregard of this potential, very little post-consumer plastic is currently recycled, while most of it is burned for energy recovery, dug in landfills, or lost in the environment. Despite being durable and not easily degradable, plastic continues to be used primarily for single-use applications.

I3DPF is an ongoing research project exploring the transformative role of design in creating high-added-value architectural components starting from waste material. Specifically, the research aims to define how performative and bespoke building facades can be produced using recycled thermoplastics. It focuses on using Large-Scale Robotic 3D Printing (LSR3DP) to create and design expressive facade panels, which allow the inclusion of multiple functionalities (e.g. insulation, solar shading) into a mono-material component. Mono-materiality is notably an important prerequisite for circularity as it simplifies recycling at the end of life.

The concept includes integrating the non-load-bearing facade components into a conventional substructure composed of timber mullions and transoms. The connection between the panels and the substructure uses off-the-shelf curtain wall connections, including gaskets and pressure plates, a solution that guarantees good performances in air and water tightness while ensuring reversibility.

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich
Francesco Milano (project lead), Prof. Matthias Kohler, Prof. Fabio Gramazio

In cooperation with:
Chair of Digital Building Technologies, ETH Zurich
Matthias Leschok, Nik Eftekar Olivo, Prof. Dr. Benjamin Dillenburger

Chair of Architecture and Building Systems, ETH Zurich
Valeria Piccioni, Prof. Dr. Arno Schlüter

Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Ringo Perez Gamote, Prof. Dr. Andreas Luible

Support: Michael Lyrenmann, Philippe Fleischmann (Robotic Fabrication Lab, ETH Zurich)

Research Programme: NCCR Digital Fabrication
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Gramazio Kohler Research
Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication
ETH Zürich HIB E 43
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