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Concrete Casting News from the Hill and Griffith Company

Double Curved Concrete Surface

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Oct 15, 2020 5:02:06 PM

A case study in reinforced concrete

Excerpt from the May 2018 issue report by Luis Pedro Sarmento Esteves and Goncalo Castro Henriques

This paper deals with digital integration between design and fabrication in order to construct a complex double-curved concrete surface. This research focuses on the practical application of CNC technology to polyurethane (EPS), as an alternative to concrete formwork. The influence of specific EPS properties as deformability under compression, water tightness and finish on concrete pre-fabrication was analyzed. This enabled high flexibility of architectural forms and textures, integrated in structural elements. Limitations were found on the mold reuse for several elements.

1. Introduction

Since industrialization, construction of complex non-standard structures in concrete considerably diminish. These structures became less common due to the lack of construction and design processes capable of generating viable concrete elements and shapes, according to the mass production of elements in series. Specialization and a lack of collaboration between architecture, engineering and material science led to segregation of investigation on the field. Concrete structures are usually narrow and integrate production techniques that are optimized for linear elements. When facing more complex forms, concrete is seen as a non-flexible material, which is bonded to limitations of molding options and solutions.

Double Curved Concrete Surface

Buildings like the "Sagrada Família" designed by Gaudí in 1926, seem difficult to attain or complete due to the economic restraints and skill limitations of the workers. Recently with the digital revolution, CAD-CAM (computer aided design, computer aided manufacture) technologies offer us the possibility to regain a new integration of disciplines, Kieran (2004). The building "Zollhof Towers" (2000) in Dusseldorf, by Frank Gehry was overlooked as a practical example of the use of different pre-cast panels built off the site.

In this case study, we developed a complex double-curved surface in concrete, and the CAD-CAM process integrated design, engineering and fabrication. Data flow in a non-linear process accompanied all the stages from conception until the final product was made.
We used two molds to pre-cast the double-curved surface in self-compactable concrete. The molds were milled with the help of a CNC four axes machine that translated the data in 3D trajectories and made successive paths, subtracting material until obtaining the desired form. After that, they were filled with concrete and dried in the mold to gain resistance.
The digital integration can provide a shorter production process and the integration of disciplines engaged in collective intelligence. One could start to think about a building information model to be used by the collaborating disciplines, Kolarevic (2005). With the development of parametric design, fabrication and materials science integrated with digital collaboration, a wider range of solutions will be available. From this, a different logic of production is derived regarding the limitation of mass production, the mass-customization:
"Things used to be made to order and made to fit. But they were labor-intensive and expensive. Mass production came along and made things more affordable, but at a cost of the sameness, the cost of one-size-fits-all.
Technology is beginning to let us have it both ways. Increasingly we're getting more personalization at mass production prices. We’re moving towards mass customization," McTeer (1998). This new situation enables us to think of complex concrete structures, in a differentiated pre-fabrication process where choice is present.

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