Working together with ETH, NFIC is tapping the full potential of 3D printing

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News

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September 2022

Pushing the boundaries also means constantly exploring new avenues of approach and new ideas. With Hello, Concrete, NFIC is helping to create an exhibition pavilion made entirely of 3D printed concrete. An extraordinary project to be experienced in the prestigious setting of the Vitra Design Museum.

Printing concrete: what once seemed like science fiction is now a reality that opens up a broad spectrum of opportunities thanks to the huge advances in 3D printing. And when engineering and cutting-edge technology come together, we at NFIC are always the first to become involved. This is the case with the Hello, Concrete project, to which we bring our expertise in concrete structures and years of research aimed at developing new construction techniques.

The realisation of a vision

Hello, Concrete is a doctoral research project conducted by Joris Burger, a member of the Gramazio Kohler group at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich). For this occasion, Joris teamed up with several international postgraduate architecture students from ETH and with Nicolas Fehlmann Ingénieurs Conseils.

As a partner in the project, our firm brings its engineering perspective to both the design and implementation phases. We actively interact with the students and doctoral researchers through conferences and discussions. We also give them valuable advice that will later be applied on the structure.

An ultra-contemporary pavilion in a magnificent setting

The result of this collaboration is an exhibition pavilion that is as elegant in its aesthetics as it is innovative in its design. Consisting of an assembly of slender columns made of prefabricated elements, Hello, Concrete is a landmark example of the potential of 3D printing applied to concrete constructions.

The project employs robotic 3D printing technology for the formwork and fast-curing concrete in the pouring phase. Here the use of 3D printing reveals an infinite range of possibilities: it allows complex elements in a non-standardised design to be manufactured in an efficient manner. This technology is also very effective in terms of sustainability, as it allows savings to be made in the quantity of materials used. As certain prototypes have shown, some structures can be manufactured with up to 50% less material!

The Hello, Concrete pavilion will be on display on the campus of the Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, as part of an exhibition exploring the interaction between robots and humans. The Vitra Museum is a very famous campus to which the world’s leading architectural firms have contributed, from Frank Gehry to Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, Zaha Hadid and Carsten Höller. Such an innovative project deserved such a setting.

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