Creative Experimentation in Architectural Design

What are the architectural implications for the future of organic structures? That’s a question that Sunil Kumar has considered for some time now. It’s a long ranging concern that he’s been researching not through the weight of his school’s assignments, but on his own. “I’m curious about understanding and experimenting with complex geometries that border on the organic, while still offering structural integrity,” Sunil said.

To proceed on his ideas, Sunil produced some designs using Rhino, then tried to expand on those designs using 3D max. “Originally, I was interested in increasing my knowledge of a different software system,” he said. “What I realized though was how difficult it is to maintain the integrity of a complex structure in some programs. Especially structures like my Twisted Tower design.”

Maintaining the integrity in CAD is one thing, but producing an actual model is another. Sunil realized that he’d need to produce a prototype to really see how the structure worked out. For example, was he sure that all connections were accurate, or that they provided the proper thickness. He also wanted to investigate outside sources for his designs. The school has its own rapid prototyping equipment, but there are many other pieces of equipment to work with, and many other services available. He ran across ZoomRP on the Internet. The company offers the lowest costs and the fastest turnaround in the industry.

“I contacted ZoomRP to try out one of my first 3D max designs,” Sunil said. “I thought I had all the geometry straightened out but wanted some solid proof. The software appeared to make the geometry fairly straight forward, although it took some work going over it to be sure.”

The final product was uploaded to the ZoomRP website to go through the fabrication process then overnight delivery. Sunil had no plans or need for post prep work like sanding or painting because the whole idea was to see how well the structure could be produced the first time out.

According to Sunil, ZoomRP worked out extremely well overall for the trial. The accuracy of the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) white prototype allowed even the most fragile sections to turn out well. “Some areas were a little on the thin side, but that was due to the geometries put into 3D max,” he said. The structure did prove to be very strong, which is what he was looking for. “The CAD geometry needs to be tightened up, but I have to do that myself,” he said.

SLS is an additive rapid manufacturing process that builds 3D parts by using a laser to fuse a powdered material. Once a CAD file is uploaded to the ZoomRP site it is mathematically sliced into 2D cross-sections. The part is then built layer-by-layer until it is complete. These parts can be created from a range of powder materials, including Nylon-11 and Nylon-12 polyamides, or nylons with fillers such as glass beads, aramid or carbon fibers, and metals such as tool steel, stainless steel, and cobalt chromoloy, as well as other alloys.

The strength of the material, as well as the accuracy of the SLS machine allows complex structures to be tested for their strength and functionality. SLS prototyping and manufacturing equipment can be used for shapes that are too complex for machining. Internally complicated structures can easily be built using additive technologies where other methods cannot compete.

Sunil plans to continue his research on producing a cleaner CAD file to eliminate some of the thin areas, and plans to produce other prototypes in the future.

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