SMART SLAB

Smart Slab combines the excellent structural properties of concrete with the geometric freedom of 3D printing. It allows for the creation of highly optimised building components with complex structural configuration out of concrete. Smart Slab will be the first full-scale architectural project to be fabricated using 3D-printed formwork.

The key benefit of 3D printing is that geometric complexity and customisation do not increase production cost and time. As limitations on the size and resolution of 3D-printed objects disappear, the technology becomes more relevant to life-size architectural construction.

Smart Slab showcases a new generation of a radically optimised digital building processes from design to fabrication. It utilises 3D printing as a way to automate and optimise the most labour-intense process in concrete construction: fabricating the formwork. Smart Slab combines the excellent structural properties of concrete with the geometric freedom of 3D printing. Through 3D-printed formwork, Smart Slab takes full advantage of the plasticity of concrete to create a highly optimised building component featuring intricate ornamental structures which create a rich architectural experience. Smart Slab will be the first full-scale architectural project to be fabricated using 3D-printed formwork.

The 80 m2 lightweight concrete slab fabricated for the DFAB HOUSE carries the two-story timber unit above it. Its main support is the double-curved Mesh Mould wall from which it cantilevers in multiple directions. Based on the 3D-printed formwork, the prefabricated concrete elements are optimised as a result of the organic, hierarchical ribbed structure. This structure saves material by efficiently distributing it to the locations of greatest load stress. As a result, together with a post-tensioning system and ultra-high-performance fibre-reinforced concrete, the ceiling is over 50% lighter than its conventional counterparts.

In Smart Slab, details for the façade interface and for technical installations such as sprinklers and lighting are embedded into the prefabricated elements to reduce construction height and to avoid complexity on the construction site.

Planning software was developed to integrate the fabrication parameters into the early design phase. This software allows for optimisation of the slab design, automatic detailing, cost control and the direct export of fabrication data relating to the formwork.

More Innovations

Project credits:
Leading investigators
Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, ETH Zurich
Prof. Robert Flatt, Institute for Building Materials, ETH Zurich
Prof. Joseph Schwartz, Chair of Structural Design, ETH Zurich

Contributing researchers
Dr. Mania Aghaei Meibodi (Project lead), Mathias Bernhard, Andrei Jipa, Demetris Shammas, Rena Giesecke, Jesus Medina, Melina Mezari, Dr. Marco Bahr, Dr. Timothy Wangler, Nicolas Ruffray, Adi Grüninger

Supporting technicians
Michael Lyrenmann, Philippe Fleischmann, Andreas Reusser

Industry partners
Bürgin Creations
Frutiger AG
Stahlton AG
voxeljet AG

Image credits:
Digital Building Technologies Group, ETH Zurich