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Smart Dynamic Casting

Ena Lloret Kristensen ETH Zürich

Smart Dynamic Casting (SDC) is a novel fabrication technology resulting from an interdisciplinary research project developed by the research groups specialized in material science of concrete, digital fabrication, computational physics and rheology. It pioneers the combination of slipforming and building material sciences with digital fabrication techniques. The need for custom made formwork for geometrically complex concrete structures is eliminated by controlling the rheological properties of the material in a robotic slipforming process. The concrete is hereby formed in the delicate period when it changes from a soft to a hard state.
In this process a formwork, significantly smaller than the structures produced, is attached to a 6-axis robotic arm. The robotic arm replaces the hydraulic jacks commonly used in slipforming allowing for precise control of speed and movement in space. This enhanced robotic control is driven by the physical properties of the material monitored by a feedback system that measures the setting kinetics of the concrete – allowing for optimal formability of the concrete during the digital production. Careful mix design and in particular the adjustment of various chemical admixtures represents an essential element of success along with the robotic control. The interplay of disciplines has therefore been an essential component in this innovation.
This paper discusses the experimental results and challenges in two strands : the first strand is on material design – and the complex interaction of chemical admixtures and their influence on the rheological properties as well as hydration kinetics of the concrete ; the second strand discusses the architectural scale and the digital fabrication, with a particular focus on the formwork and monitoring system applied during the digital fabrication experiments.