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HomeBusinessBSA students Create 3D-printed multi-material system made from recyclable plastics

BSA students Create 3D-printed multi-material system made from recyclable plastics

12 April 2021: Students from the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL have developed a 3D-printed multi-material system made from recyclable plastics as part of their architectural design master’s program. It is called ‘metaplas’; the project makes use of rigid and flexible thermoplastics to create a structural system through geometric folds. And to demonstrate how it could be used, the team of students has applied the design to London’s Euston station, envisioning an undulating roof canopy for the site filled with dazzling colours and textures.

Metaplas was developed with the aim of creating a material system that unifies design, materiality, structural requirements and fabrication through digital tools. The students also focus on utilising a decentralised fabrication network, ensuring more ecological and ethical production while boosting local economies. Beginning with extensive material research, two recyclable thermoplastics – rigid PLA and flexible TPU – were identified for their potential to achieve a foldable multi-material panel.

The panel is 3D-printed flat and made three-dimensional through an integrated patterning system. Folding was enhanced as a geometric tool through a customized process involving structural analysis prior to folding. Areas that require the most structure are densest in folds, while areas that are intrinsically structural are sparser. The folds are secured through a cable system and a clip-lock mechanism that eases assembly, disassembly, and maintenance.

Further research has gone into integrating thermochromic plastics in the multi-material panel through an embedded micro-pattern. This achieves passive control over the lighting temperature of interior spaces, thereby improving indoor well-being while including semiotic lighting for a sense of directionality.

Euston station’s new canopy in London is the large-scale architectural scenario for metaplas. A decentralized fabrication approach is established by identifying and mapping scattered recycling and 3D printing facilities within a radius from the site. The panels are fabricated in these facilities, thereby boosting the local economy and breaking the economic displacement and polarization caused by traditional centralised productions.

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