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Digital Composites: Robotic 3D Printing of Continuous Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastics for Functionally-Graded Building Components

Abstract

Carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRP) can impact the built environment significantly. In addition to its extraordinary weight-to-strength ratio, CFRP provides numerous benefits in architecture, including its plasticity and aesthetics. In theory, CFRP can take any shape, but the fabrication constraints of mold making currently limit the design. The mold is the most resource-intensive element of CFRP fabrication, and it is particularly challenging and costly for the bespoke non-standard shapes, which are often found in architecture. This research presents a novel approach to utilizing robotic three-dimensional printing (3DP) to make CFRP materials accessible in architecture by combining layered 3DP of neat polymers with add-on 3DP of CFRP materials. This paper begins by providing background information and an overview of state-of-the-art CFRP fabrication. It then outlines the challenges related to the fabrication process and design of 3DP CFRP building components. Taking into account the design parameters, material properties and fabrication constraints, the paper describes the fabrication process development, computational design tool development and demonstrative physical experiment. The presented research is the first part of an interdisciplinary research involving architecture and mechanical engineering in order to investigate the potential for large-scale mold-less fabrication of CFRP components.

Keywords

  • Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics
  • Computerized materials and structures
  • Robotic 3D printing

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank a number of partners and collaborators whose dedication helped us fulfill the research described in this paper:

• Andrei Jipa, Pietro Odaglia, Dr Mania Aghaei Meibodi and the rest of the Digital Building Technologies personnel at ETH Zurich

• Professor Dr Paolo Ermanni (CMASLab, ETH Zurich)

• David Jenny (Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich)

• Michael Lyrenmann and Philippe Fleischmann (technical support, ETH Zurich)

• Ma Xijie (student assistant, ETH Zurich)

• 9T Labs, Extrudr (industry partners) and HAL Robotics (software support)

This research is supported by the NCCR Digital Fabrication, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NCCR Digital Fabrication Agreement #51NF40-141853).

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Correspondence to Hyunchul Kwon .

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Kwon, H., Eichenhofer, M., Kyttas, T., Dillenburger, B. (2019). Digital Composites: Robotic 3D Printing of Continuous Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastics for Functionally-Graded Building Components. In: Willmann, J., Block, P., Hutter, M., Byrne, K., Schork, T. (eds) Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design 2018. ROBARCH 2018. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92294-2_28

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