Topology Formwork Optimized Concrete Components: Utilizing 3D Printed Clay

Alyssa Fellabaum + Austin Wiskur



Tsz Yan Ng


Topology Formwork Optimized Concrete Components: Utilizing 3D Printed Clay, investigates additive manufactured (or 3D printed) clay formwork for concrete casting. The objective is to expand on the architectural potential of leave-in-place formworks, where printed clay molds receive poured concrete in strategic areas as a vertical index for reinforcement. This manufacturing method minimizes material waste by integrating the clay formwork as part of the final component. It leverages the use of only necessary material to produce each component, thus generating zero waste.

In this case study, it explores the potential of composite building components, utilizing clay and concrete to explore as an integrated system. Clay molds are printed with geometric specification, unfired and dried, then assembled together before casting in-place with concrete for reinforcement. It introduces opportunities for cured concrete to fracture, due to differential shrinkage, releasing its bond from the clay mold where the clay could then be recycled for re-use. Not only is clay a low embodied energy building material, correlating to our research within a sustainable construction initiative, but using 3d printed clay also gains an aesthetic expression from the ribbed contours of the clay print coils.

3D printing offers customized robotic precision in mold fabrication, allowing for more complex geometries. Our proposal investigates undercuts, which are impossible to cast with conventional concrete molding processes. The designs of masonry-scaled units are optimized at several levels; in terms of speed for printing during fabrication, as well as thermal performance within a wall system due to clay and concrete’s unique thermal capacity to retain heat. The proposed thermal mass wall leverages both physical material characteristics as well as computational and digital optimization to direct design decisions. The final design considers the earthen quality and expressive potentials of clay 3D printing, integrated with the structural strength of concrete as a thermal wall system.