Metal is usually a very different material to shape. Its embodied energy makes it costly and unwieldy. Sheet metal is far easier to form, and has the advantage of becoming stiff and sturdy when given a reinforcing shape.
A research project in Germany has taken this principle to the next level. Using ultra-lightweight aluminium sheets, students produced so-called ‘metal scapes’.
The key to all the shaping is increment sheet metal forming. This is useful for a variety of reasons. Incremental forming means the metal doesn’t fatigue as quickly. Because the researchers used adjustable moulds, this also means that small changes to the shape can be made at each increment.
That allows for complex geometries to be generated. Bit by bit, a small rounded metal forming head pushes the aluminium into the adjustable mould, continually shaping and reshaping the material.
Six prototypes were the result.
– Closer, which is an individually adaptive pressure sleeve resulting from a 3D body scan.
– Datatrophy is a sports trophy. The cup is shaped by incorporating data from the athlete´s victory (movement, speed and do on) into the production process.
– Polylight, a reflective lampshade formed from a polygonally shaped metal sheet to maximise reflection of light into a given space.
– Rohform is a cooperative platform that integrates high-tech forming with traditional handicraft.
– Sibu is a smart crimping structure that responds and reacts to external physical forces.
– Smart Shaped, which is an alternative business concept enabling customers to produce an individualised furniture collection.
Shaping the metal in this way generates a landscape-like family of forms, hence the name ‘metal scapes’. The project is a collaboration between the University of Applied Science in Potsdam and the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technologies IWU. More information on the project is here and in this publication.