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HS HI-TECH and ETH mix 3D printing tech for Digital Bamboo pavilion

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The Digital Bamboo pavilion explores the innovative combination of a naturally grown material with digital fabrication. It was developed via a collaboration between the Swiss university ETH and Korean firm HS HI-TECH, combining natural bamboo, extruded recycled thermoplastics on textiles, multijet fusion and metal powder bed fusion processes. Mostly, though, the project combined know-hows in hybrid digital constructions.

HS HI-TECH developed unique expertise in the production of complex 3D printed connectors for non-traditional buildings. ETH, especially through its Digital Building Technologies (dbt) department, combined a number of different construction processes in the Dfab house project, which was completed recently. Both experiences plaid a role in the Digital Bamboo pavilion where, along with the use of bamboo, as an ideal sustainable building material, customized computational tools were developed to design the ultra-lightweight structure, with bespoke 3D printed connections. The structure covers more than 40 sqm with a total weight of only 200 kgs. The Digital Bamboo pavilion showcases a filigree and engaging architecture that surpasses the standardized space frame vocabulary.

Digital Bamboo pavilion
Photos from HS HI-TECH

Computational design allows the optimization and formal exploration of complex structures. The high-performance structure covers a large area, cantilevering almost 5 meters in three directions whilst requiring minimal support. The main load-bearing system is defined by a spatial truss reinforced by post-tensioned cables. The geometry of the pavilion, consisting of more than 900 bamboo elements, was form-found using specifically developed digital tools.

The bamboo elements are connected via a new system based on 3D printing technology. The generation of the connections was automated through a digital process and developed to fulfill mechanical requirements. Their intricate geometry encapsulates necessary functions such as tolerances for assembly and bamboo inhomogeneities, connections to the shading panels, labeling, and cable fittings. In parallel, their volume is minimized to save time and cost. A hybrid strategy using HP’s multijet fusion technology (for polymer powders) and EOS direct metal laser sintering (for metal powders) was used to manufacture the 380 bespoke plastic connections and one metallic one in the center of the structure.

Digital Bamboo pavilion
The 3D printed connectors. Photo credit: Marirena Kladeftira, dbt

The shading panels of the pavilion are designed through a custom computational process and fabricated through add-on 3D printing of a recyclable UV resistant thermoplastic on a lightweight lycra textile. 3D printing stiffens and shapes the fabric into flexible bespoke panels. The composite elements are locally reinforced reducing the amount of material used. Other project partners and sponsors include HP, SGSolution AG, AF, Fercher AG, Holcim, Abuma Gmbh and RapLab ETH Zurich

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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