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Thermoformable bioplastic developed

A mock-up of a bioplastics façade has been created that is made of 90% bioplastics. This project leads the way towards new levels of both recycling and renewability in façades. A consortium of designers, researchers and academics developed the material, called ArboBlend, and a triangulated façade material from it, the ArboSkin.

The project took place at the ITKE, a research department at the University of Stuttgart, where the team developed a new thermo-formable material for façade cladding made primarily from renewable resources. The material was developed to suit the building industry’s need for renewable and free-formable materials. The ArboBlend bioplastic, a development by Tecnaro, comprises over 90% bio-polymers, and a little under 10% is a mix of inorganic mineral compounds. These minerals help protect the material from UV light. The bioplastic contains no halogens, chlorines or bromines. Oil-based components and additives are also kept to a minimum, meaning that recycling is both easier and cleaner than normal.

During production, the bioplastic is formed into granules, which can be extruded into sheets and then processed as required. The 3,5 mm thick sheets can be drilled, printed, laminated, laser-cut, CNC-milled or thermoformed to generate different surface qualities and structures and eventually to produce various moulded components.

The façade mock-up shown demonstrates an architectural and constructive application of such bioplastic materials. The blueprint for the design is based on a triangular net composed of mesh elements of varying sizes. Each element is made of bioplastic pyramids, or panels with thermo-formed relief, which are coupled together.

In the freeform façade, the bioplastic works as a sheet material, shell-based structure with additional load-bearing and bracing ring carriers and joists. Contrary to common non-load-bearing façade constructions, the ArboSkin construction involves the load-bearing properties of the doubly curved skin as the main bracing element for the entire system.

Ultimately, the idea is that thermo-formable sheets of bioplastics will represent a resource-efficient alternative in the future, as they combine the high malleability and recyclability of plastics with the environmental benefits of materials consisting primarily of renewable resources.

Photographs © Roland Halbe; other images via ITKE Stuttgart.


  1. Manfred R. Hammer says:

    video from this project: