Manufacturing double-curvature surfaces
The late 1980s saw some radical developments in what became known as freeform, organic or zoomorphic architecture. Prior to this date most structures, with the exception of those in the craft and cultural tradition and the engineering work of the structural pioneers of the early 20th century, were constructed of planar elements in orthogonal arrangements set at regular intervals.
The ability to create double-curvature forms in a controllable manner was an essential requirement of this new building typology and was enabled by borrowing the emerging 3D software platforms being developed by the film animation, aerospace and automotive industries. Here in lies a problem that has dogged the architects ever since. Their buildings are one-off "prototypes" whereas the animation industry had never intended to bring their creations into the real world and the aerospace and the auto makers were intent on making many multiples with fixed tooling.
The problem for the construction industry arose when it came to transforming the creative digital data into coherent freeform buildings for which they had no obvious tools to produce large double-curvature surfaces, digitally. This state of affairs has persisted for twenty years with the R&D averse construction industry relying instead on a bewildering array of analogue traditional craft based fabricators and tangential industries, such as ship building, to provide one-off double-curvature constructions at monumental scales with an acceptable degree of accuracy.
Traditionally sheet metal development falls into two catagories, (i) manual analogue techniques of Wheeling, Rolling and Incremental sheet forming, producing unique shapes in small quantities with inherent dimensional deviation and (ii) die-stamping, producing identicle shapes in mass production quantities.
Formtexx anticipates an entirely new third category which combines the benefits of digital manufacture with non-repeating freeform geometry as standard: Formtexx is a CAD/CAM/CNC (patents applied) metal plate/sheet forming cell, producing custom 3D forms serially direct from CAD data in mass-production quantities with automotive quality.
Formtexx has closed the gap between digital design and digital manufacturing, in the facade sector.
John Gould, Formtexx, 5 Delancey Passage, Delancey Street, London NW1 7NN, UK
Phone: +44 (0)20 7387 7295 E-mail: