Revolutionary Fabric Cast Concrete

Fabric Form designers Ron Culver and Joseph Sarafian have devised a fascinating method of casting concrete in Lycra sleeves stretched by robotic arms. The innovation could lead to complex new architectural shapes and forms.

To create these intriguing geometries, a concrete fibreglass mixture is poured into Y-shaped sleeves made of Lycra and then stretched into the desired shape by six-acis robots. Once the concrete sets, the Lycra is peeled away.

Each shape takes around 45 minutes to set and the resulting shapes are then attached to each other using a 3d-printer coupler. The resulting assemblies have the potential to be used as facades or as load bearing structures. The designers preprogrammed the stretching movements using Grasshopper3D and Kangaroo software, allowing each of the pieces to be designed to fit together.

This means of casting concrete is not only dynamic in terms of form, but also in terms of material sustainability. Traditional concrete casting is labour intensive as it requires for instance plywood formworks that need to be built and are then stripped and discarded. To create freeform shapes using traditional techniques, a unique mould must be made.

The benefit of using Lycra is that not only does it not result in significant amounts of material waste, but the fabric can be used to create any shape desired without the ned for casting a unique mould.

This way of casting concrete is particularly compatible with parametric design. “Parametric design is increasing the need for variation, much of which goes unbuilt because of traditional construction methods’ failure to adapt to new digital technologies,” Sarafian said.

Intrigued? You can watch a movie of Fabric Forms in action here.

The design team started this project as part of an independent study at UCLA under Julia Koerner. Credits go to Peter Vikar, Shobitha Jacob, Oscar LI an Qi Zhang for the contribution to early experiments!