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Alighted Structures by James Warton

82 Texas Architect

3/4 2014

Additive manufacturing processes are becoming more prominent in the discussion of digital fabrication and architecture. In general, architects have encouraged limited implementation of this relatively new mode of production beyond conceptual and representational applications. Exceptions focus primarily on processes that utilize polymer and resin-based materials, ceramics, sand, or cementitious materials. Like other means of rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing, those utilizing metals offer compelling design potential. They can achieve mass customization, integrate complex surface textures, and handle variable density and heterogeneity of material substances within a single build. Additive manufacturing technologies enable the production of lighter, cheaper, waste-reducing alternatives to traditionally manufactured parts. This capacity to accommodate so many types of variability and topological complexity often allows single parts to replace whole assemblies. Because additive manufacturing is well suited for producing complex parts that demand strength with minimal weight, its early applications have primarily been focused in the

aviation, aerospace, and medical industries. The production-scale efficiency and cost feasibility achieved by these industries indicate that additive manufacturing technologies will be effective for manufactured building systems and components as well. A fundamental advantage of additive manufacturing is its ability to define complexities that address a range of performance criteria. For example, based on morphological studies of avian bone structure, thin wall optimization has been examined as a possible design model: Additive manufacturing processes can produce hollow structures with internal stiffening resistance. features a number of adaptations that have produced an extremely lightweight structure capable of tolerating stress imposed during take-off, flight, and landing. Many avian bones are hollow with an intricate network of reinforcing struts. Other bones are fused into a single ossification, allowing for stress resistance with reduced bone mass. These adaptations can be summed up as variations of bone density consistent with performance. The design model that mimics these features may The skeletal structure of birds

Texas Architect March/April 2014: Materials