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In scarcely more than ten years, mass production of prefab forms has brought new speed and economies into the construction industry. The reasons for turning to prefab forms are obvious. The need for speed was a major factor. Building forms on the job site requires lots of time- time the contractor could be using to superintend the job. Prefabs also permitted a contractor to start a job much faster. An even more compelling reason for the industry to turn to prefabs was economy. Jobs had to be figured close, and prefabs permitted labor saving short cuts immediately. Forming hardware was also beneficiary of the trend to fast erection and stripping.

Even scaffolding and bracing became prefabricated so that the contractor need spend no time at all on this otherwise time consuming detail work.

But now, technology allows us to go further. Here are some of the innovations in the formwork industry.

3D PRINTING INNOVATION WITH CONCRETE AND MESH FORMS Printing concrete forms may have been held back due to the framework involved. However, a group of scientists have developed a wire mesh frame that can be shaped according to the design, is lower cost, has less waste, and is built by a robot.

This new method will be used in Switzerland on a project next year.

Swiss researchers working at the "Swiss MIT" have created a new technique for concrete construction using robotics and metal mesh. Using a robot arm to mold metal into a grid like mesh the Swiss team hope to provide a successful alternative to traditional construction processes. Zurich based group Gramazio Kohler Research began researching the mesh mold technique in 2012. Research

is based at ETH Zurich and it last year (2015) Gramazio Kohler started looking at using metal. Work initially began with creating the molds out of plastic. The research is part of the

National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication.

In conventional concrete construction, pictured below, external formwork is required to contain the concrete while it sets in its required shape. Also, metal rods are required inside the poured concrete in order to provide reinforcement. Mesh Mould aims to eradicate the need for external formwork while still providing concrete reinforcement. Furthermore, this technique will enable complex structures to be built out of concrete without the need to create made-to- measure formwork, or complex metal reinforcement rods. This approach

may lead to less waste since tailor made formwork cannot be used more than once.


Some interesting formwork was used by University at Buffalo architectural student Allison Adderley to create an unusual concrete element. The formwork is a double layer of fusible fabric (creating a pillow) with

the concrete poured in-between

the layers. This installation in the Buffalo Grain Elevators was suspended with cables. As the concrete heated up it caused a chemical reaction in the fabric which made it rigid and allowed it to absorb into the concrete. The absorbed fabric acted as formwork as well as an additional layer of reinforcement. The final installation had 3200 pounds of concrete poured and suspended above the ground.

CANOE WITH 3D PRINTED CONCRETE FORMWORK A canoe with 3D printed formwork took 1st prize for design innovation at Concrete Canoe Regatta. A team from ETH Zurich took home first place for Design Innovation at the 26th Concrete Canoe Regatta for its partially 3D printed canoe. Held in Cologne, the biennial event brings together participants from universities all over Europe to see who can design the lightest, fastest, most beautiful, and most innovative concrete canoe.

Dubbed SkelETHon, the concrete canoe was the result of a collaboration between ETH Zurich, Digital Building Technologies (DBT), and the Physical Chemistry of Building Materials (PCBM) Group. According to a post by ETH, DBT provided its expertise in computational design and digital fabrication, while PCBM Group was responsible for developing the concrete mixes and construction- based processes used to make the boat's structure.

The boat, which weighs 114 kg and spans four meters in length, was made using a number of fabrication techniques. For the design, DBT offered its Free Formwork software, which was used to make the intricate design and structure of the boat.

As you may have guessed from the canoe's name, it is set apart by its skeletal structure, which was first constructed using 3D printing. That is, to make the canoe, the ETH team first 3D printed a submillimeter-thin plastic formwork, which they then cast in an ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete material. This concrete skeleton weighed about 4 kg and was notable for a high-resolution surface texture with details as precise as 0.5 mm.

This texture, explains ETH, was designed to increase the contact area between the formwork and the outer skin. The skeletal formwork itself

was designed "using topology and shape optimization algorithms which reduce the material of a traditional canoe design and redistribute it in

a skeleton-like structure in order to maximize the stiffness of the boat." The boat's outer layer consists of a 3 mm thick waterproof concrete skin.

"The construction process made possible a highly complex concrete skeleton with bones as thin as 15 millimetres in diameter which would be impossible to fabricate with any other digital fabrication technologies," reads an ETH post about the concrete canoe. "3D printing, a precious fabrication process, was used minimally, but had a significant impact on the overall design."

INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS IN BURKINA FASO, BRAZIL AND GERMANY A school project in Gando, Burkina Faso, a multifunctional community

center in SAaAaAeAeAaAaAeA o Paulo, Brazil, and an urban renewal plan in Ber Germany are the winners of the Global Holcim Awards. These leading sustainable construction projects were selected from 15 finalist submissions by a jury of independent experts led by Enrique Norten.

A school project in Burkina Faso that integrates social and environmental performance won the top prize of USD 200,000. The design for the school in the village of Gando was created by DiAaAaAeA@bAaAaAeA@do Francis KAaAaAeA@rAaAaAeA@ o Architecture in Berlin. Passive cooling during oppressive summer heat creates an indoor climate conducive to learning by routing air through subterranean tubes, planting vegetation, stack-effect air currents, and using double-skin roofs and faAaAaAeAoades. The project also improv social conditions by providing

jobs and training, and restores the environment through reforestation.

The Holcim Innovation prize went to Gramazio & Kohler, Architektur und Digitale Fabrikation at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

(ETH Zurich), for a construction technology using molds that combine existing processes and materials in a new way to fabricate cast-on-site concrete structures with reusable and digitally-fabricated wax formwork. This approach saves material and energy compared to traditional molds, such as expanded polystyrene blocks for single-use applications or flexed sheets of material which are limited to low curvatures. Principal of Harry Gugger Studio (Switzerland) and head of the Innovation prize jury, Harry Gugger, acclaimed the project as an advance in the use of molding for complex forms. "Until now, complex concrete forms have required molds that are difficult to build and created a great deal of waste -- but this approach eliminates both of these challenges," he said.

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Publication:OER Dossier
Date:Dec 31, 2017
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