A structural, textured metal system wins first place in a competition and the chance to develop a façade with Zahner.Reinforcing the idea that time fosters wisdom, Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano’s third iteration of a structural architectural screen was awarded first place in Tex-Fab’s digital fabrication competition, SKIN. According to Tex-Fab’s co-director, Andrew Vrana, the team’s 3xLP project was selected for its innovative façade system, which uses parametric design and digital fabrication. The 3xLP designers’ exploration of the relationship between academia and manufacturing merged at the University at Buffalo’s (UB) Department of Architecture. Starting their collaborative research with a digital model, Bruscia and Romano solicited the help of local manufacturer Rigidized Metals, (RM), who helped realize the second stage of the project’s evolution with two thin gauge metals featuring proprietary patterns. “The project is important because we’ve partnered so closely with Rigidized Metals,” Roman told AN. “We’ve brought digital and computational expertise, and they’ve provided material knowledge for textured metal—it’s a reciprocal team.” Bruscia said the computational models were heavily informed by material parameters. Working with various patterns in RM’s product library, the team started to see various textures performing differently in structural applications, though the company’s metals are typically used in cladding or decorative applications. “Rigidized Metals’ patterns are stronger than flat metals,” Romano said. “That informed how we selected textures and which became a part of the computational conversation.” Drawn to the geometry of the embossed 4LB sheet, they found the low relief pattern to perform comparably to a deeply stamped-style, and that it complemented other chosen patterns nicely. Structural loading was tested in Karamba, an architect-friendly finite element method analysis plugin for Rhino that was developed recently in Austria. Designed primarily in Rhino 5 and Grasshopper, the team also wrote many of their own scripts. For the SKIN competition, the team adjusted porosity of the screen to increase transparency for façade applications. The screen’s pattern is articulated from all perspectives, creating a dynamic quality that is achieved by a slight twist through the entire structure. “The twist in the system is a result of us getting the geometry on the screen for the system to perform structurally, and to make it possible to fabricate,” Romano said. “Some geometric moves on the screen can be difficult to fabricate, so to remove those you get subtle twisting in the elevation.” At RM’s Buffalo facility, profiles of the system’s components were turret-punched on a CNC, and folded on a press break to achieve a diamond shape. A tabbing system was also milled so the shapes could be fastened with stainless bolts to form a seamless, continuous cell structure. As part of the SKIN competition, Bruscia and Romano will continue working with RM, as well as A. Zahner Company, to fabricate a façade system with a glazing component. The 3xLP team will exhibit their results at the Tex-Fab 5 event in Austin, Texas on February 19.
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A fellow at the Knowlton School of Architecture expounds on the work of Le Ricolais with a new plugin for Rhino.For Justin Diles, Ohio State University’s KSA LeFevre fellowship was a fateful progression of past experiences and ongoing professional work. While studying under Cecil Balmond at the University of Pennsylvania, Diles encountered hand-built models that Robert Le Ricolais constructed with his students in the 1960s. “Le Ricolais built models with his students for 20 years,” said Diles, “and one that I found he had built out of tubular steel and loaded to failure. It produced a really beautiful deformation pattern.” Two years later, Diles was teaching at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in the master class studio of Greg Lynn. While in Austria, he met Clemens Preisinger, a developer who, with support from Klaus Bollinger’s firm Bollinger Grohman Engineers, wrote a new plugin for Rhino called Karamba. The plugin is an architect-friendly, finite, element analysis method that delivers fast, intuitive graphic information, along with the requisite numbers. The plugin would figure heavily in Diles’ fellowship work. When he arrived in Ohio, Diles’s work progressed along two parallel tracks: The first was developing a computational design component with a formal vocabulary of the structural deformation Le Ricolais’ model. The second was developing a material capable of realizing the design. In Karamba, Diles augmented a tectonic simile from le Ricolais’s latticed models as surfaces for fabrication with composites. “That was an ah-ha moment for me,” said Diles. “I began taking a single assembly and ran it through multiple iterations of buckling deformations.” Diles layered multiple deformations into patterns that produced a puzzle of nesting components. Black and white coloring helped him track the layers and lent a graphic, architectural appeal. After the design was finalized, Diles made a series of molds from lightweight Styrofoam. “It was interesting because it’s usually a junk material and, in a way, has a very bad reputation as a material,” he said. “But it’s recyclable and can hold a tremendous amount of weight and is easily worked on a CNC mill.” A 3-axis mill generated components of a mold, which were taped together and sealed with Plaster of Paris to prevent resins of the composite from bonding to the foam. “We used a lot of tricks from Bill Kreysler’s fabrication shop,” said Diles. The final mold was sealed with Duratec StyroSheild. Diles and his team coated the mold with layers of different materials, not knowing exactly how the final components would safely release from the cast. An outermost layer of marine-grade gel coat was applied to the mold and roughly sanded so a chopped E-glass fiberglass reinforcement could be affixed to it with resin. Since fiberglass is a lightweight material, about three layers were built up to realize the final 11 1/2- by 6-foot form. Convex white sections and hollow black pieces were friction-fitted, sans glue, with maximum gap spaces of only 1/32-inch.