James O’Donnell from Arup in Melbourne shares from ground-breaking
research into the possibilities of 3D printing in the building industry.
Earlier this year marked the beginning of a sponsored
collaborative research project with The Independents’ Group (a
new international research platform for interdisciplinary exchange and
Our local academic partner is RMIT University and the
research project we have sponsored is an exploration into the possibilities of
3D printing in the building industry. Kristof Crolla of LEAD (Laboratory of Explorative
Architecture & Design) won the research fellowship to conduct the study.
Our motivation to sponsor this project initially came from
the potential benefits we saw in printing bespoke steel nodes for geometrically
complex large span roofs (such as Singapore
Sports Hub or Adelaide Oval). The
roof shapes are not necessarily complicated but often the primary members are
connecting at varying angles which requires many bespoke connections to be
manufactured. These tubular structures can have higher stresses at the
connection and a thickened tube wall is used locally around the connection.
3D printed connections offer the potential to optimize the
structure and save material. This would make a significant step towards a more
sustainable structural solution. Often the weight of a large span roof can be
up-to 30-40% in the connections alone. Reducing this weight can lead to a more
cost effective solution, material saving, reduced foundation sizes and in a
seismic region, lower seismic loads! There could be many benefits.
This begins to challenge the way we have designed for
centuries. We have always looked for repeating patterns and replacing free form
curves with arcs of constant radius. Suddenly we have an opportunity to create
far more organic structural forms with less rationalization. It almost sounds
Just before Easter we participated in a week-long workshop
which brought the research
team together at RMIT University (SIAL andCISM), and engineering
Kristof Crolla led the design exploration along with
Nicholas Williams from SIAL and Mike Xie’s CISM team at RMIT. The outcome from
the hard week’s work was an initial design for a timber pavilion with 3D printed
steel connections. Whilst only at small scale for now, it is
beginning to demonstrate the aesthetic as well as structurally efficient nature
of 3D printed connections.
We expect to build the pavilion with some full scale printed
steel nodes in October. Please contact James O’Donnell or Stewart Birdfor more information on
We are interested in innovative industry research programmes
likeThe Independents’ Group. Please
contact Andrew Maher if
you have one or are developing one.
James O’Donnell studied Civil and Architectural engineering
at the University of Bath. He has worked on site with Laing O’Rourke and internationally
with Arup. He is currently a Senior Engineer based in Arup’s Melbourne office
where he is responsible for Design and Digital Innovation.
This post was shared by Arup’s Fields of Activity group blog.
Where members of Arup Australasia’s Digital Innovation Team to share the
activities, research and events they participate in behind the scenes of the
well-known projects Arup undertakes.