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ETH Zurich 3D Prints Molds for Intricate Artwork

June 27, 2018


Master’s students at engineering school ETH Zurich in Switzerland have pioneered a method of casting complex, one-off architectural structures from metal in 3D-printed molds.

The students’ debut artwork, Deep Façade, is a 6-m-high aluminum structure with ribbons of metal looping in an organic fashion, resembling folds of the brain's cerebral cortex. It is the first metal facade cast in 3D-printed molds.

"Cast metal parts have a long tradition in architecture due to their extraordinary structural properties and possible 3D form," says ETH Zurich senior researcher Mania Aghaei Meibodi. "Today the amount of manual labor involved, especially in the mold-making process makes them too expensive."

"With our approach using 3D-printed molds, we make it possible and affordable again to fabricate bespoke structural metal parts — parts with unseen richness of detail and geometric complexity," she continues. "This approach can unlock an entirely new vocabulary of shapes for metal structures in architecture, previously unavailable with traditional mold-making systems." 

The design is meant to highlight the "liquidity and strength" of metal — some sections could not have been rendered in other traditional materials like sandstone or concrete as they would have been too fragile.

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Technologies: Applications

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