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Additive Manufacturing for Future Facades

Holger Strauss, Ulrich Knaack


The basic principle of ‘3D Printing’ is the layer wise production of real parts from virtual data – be it with laser, with power glue, electron beam or UV light processing (Hopkinson, Hague, & Dickens, 2006). The professional application of ‘3D Printing’ is ‘Additive Manufacturing’ (AM) and this opens a fascinating new world of engineering. It offers a selection of reliable building construction materials – done in concrete, aluminium, steel, high performance plastics or glass. (Woodcock, 2011) No matter what applications can be found: to ‘design for function’ rather to ‘design for production’ turns our way of engineering of the last century upside down. As a result, AM opens the outlook to applications in our (built) future in combination with the available technologies of today. (Strauß, 2013)

The tool-less production with AM allows for new shapes and functional parts in small batch sizes – down to batch size one. The parts performance can be re-interpreted based on the demands within the system, not based on the limitations of conventional manufacturing. AM offers new ways of materializing the physical part around its function. Advancements can for example be achieved in the semi-finished goods: fittings with less, but higher integrated parts could offer a better performance with lower material consumption. Solving the most critical part of a free-form structure and allowing for a smart combination with the approved standards has a great potential, as well. It leads toward customized and enhanced performance.

This paper discusses the possible changes and influences, those emerging technologies have on the development of building envelopes.  To achieve today’s demands of future envelopes, we have to find new solutions - Additive Manufacturing is one possible way to do so.


Architecture, facade engineering, 3D printing, Additive Manufacturing, bespoke building envelopes, future facades, innovation, performance, file to factory

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