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What Structure Used Digital Fabrication in Its Construction?

June 6, 2023

Digital fabrication projects utilize both human-centric design and machine manufacturing processes, using computer software to direct various additive and subtractive fabrication machines.

Equipment available to consumers ranges from accessible, user-friendly 3D printers for personal workspaces to more specialized equipment used in industrial manufacturing and robotics.

1. The Eiffel Tower Replica

Gustave Eiffel designed his 300 meter steel lattice tower at a time when most people still used sandpaper to smooth and shape wood, winning him first place at an 1889 Universal Exposition competition held on Paris' Champ de Mars.

When it comes to building complex structures, architects, engineers and logistic experts must rely on new digital tools and technologies, such as BIM. BIM helps speed up construction while automating processes.

Pingel Displays, Inc. of St Louis created a 6-foot Eiffel Tower replica using Sintra and Dibond for use at trade show booths. To create this masterpiece, Adobe Photoshop was used to import and resize its design onto all parts of the tower before vector paths were established on all parts and routed for routing purposes. Holes were drilled at appropriate spots so rivets could be installed - much faster than its construction took!

2. The Burj Khalifa

Apart from being the tallest structure on Earth, this incredible skyscraper features several other unique aspects. These include its highest observation deck, fastest elevator and longest exterior walkway in existence.

The design of Burj Khalifa was inspired by three wings from a hymenocallis flower native to its desert location; additionally, its Y-shaped plan was intended to reduce wind force on its structure.

Construction of the Burj Khalifa was an enormous task, presenting numerous obstacles. Chief among these was cladding its outer shell. Due to its unprecedented scale and height, this task proved especially difficult. To address this problem, SOM employed digital fabrication techniques to produce 1:1 templates of every piece of cladding on site that served as communication platforms between different trades on-site.

3. The Sydney Opera House

Joseph Cahill of New South Wales decided that Australia needed an arts venue during the 1950s. To address this need, he invited Pritzker Prize-winning Danish architect Jorn Utzon - recipient of both an Academy Award and Pritzker Prize himself - to design one at Bennelong Point which housed a tram depot. A jury selected Utzon's design but without providing engineering drawings demonstrating how it would be constructed as they believed his vision was too extravagant to realize into real buildings.

Construction started in 1959 following the demolition of an existing tram depot and was overseen by Ove Arup and Partners engineering firm. Lunchtime performances for workers were frequently organized during construction; American opera singer Paul Robeson was the first artist to perform.

The Sydney Opera House is an expressive modern building featuring gleaming white sail-shaped shells on its waterfront location, hosting various events and offering five theater spaces such as Concert Hall, Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio Theatre. Furthermore, its roof contains over one million glazed tiles made largely in Sweden.

4. The Burj Al-Arab

Built to resemble a modern yacht sail and situated 280 meters offshore of Dubai's coast, Burj Al Arab is the world's only seven-star hotel. Comprised of two hundred and twenty-two suites, its magnificent structure is a symbol of Dubai's luxuriousness.

Since 1999, this astonishing building has been an attractive tourist attraction and iconic structure of the city, as its shape resembles that of a Dhow, an Arabic sailing vessel.

Digital fabrication technology has long been employed in manufacturing industries; however, architecture only recently started taking advantage of it. Recent research into integrating this innovative tool into construction processes is making new forms of architecture possible and could have major ramifications for productivity and sustainability. For instance, MIT's Mediated Matter Group is investigating materials which can be created solely with robots; creating more efficient work processes while encouraging collaboration across disciplines.


I enjoy designing and curating experiences both virtually and in 3-dimensional reality.
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