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Automotive Body Manufacturing Technology for Architecture

free-form sculpture in sheet metal

Among the traditional engineer ing disciplines, building and civil engineering has made least pro gress with respect to innovative manufacturing and construction. The Kaiser Dome erected by Donald Richter and Buckminster Fuller in 1957 was a step in the direction of lightweight construc tion using thin sheet metal. The forming technique at that time in volved steel dies and required large numbers of identical sheet metal formed parts to achieve a minimum of efficiency. Therefore the researchers used polyhe drons based on Platonic solids for the geometric arrangement of their dome-shaped structures.

Today, however, fabricators can form even geometrically highly individualised sheet metal structures. Parametercontrolled software has rapidly advanced over the last 20 years. On the production side, techniques such as incremental sheet forming (ISF) and stretch forming (SF) have been successful in manu facturing components with quite different geometries ready for assembly in one perfect file-to- factory process. In joint research projects, the Chair of Structures and Structural Design (Trako) and the Institute of Metal Form ing (IBF, both RWTH) are investi gating lightweight construction systems for free-form facades using these technologies.