Lessons from Nature Built into Composite Pavilion

Composite Pavilion at night

The University of Stuttgart’s composite pavilion at night.

A German university team used natural designs as inspiration in the November construction of a high-tech composite pavilion that the team hopes can be used as a model for architectural composite creation.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design. It is not the first composite architectural piece, but the team believes the processes learned can be useful in efficiently creating large structures with frames, not molds.

The team used “biomimetic” design — taken or learned from the biological world — as inspiration for their composite pavilion structure. They studied invertebrate and arthropods, such as lobsters, which served as a “biological role model” for the project. In particular, the team studied the selective strength of the lobster’s shell, itself a composite of chitin reinforcement and a protein matrix with areas of unidirectional construction and omnidirectional construction.

The structure rotated on an automated platform, and a robotic arm wound the fibers around the model. The composite pavilion, 70 percent fiberglass to 30 percent carbon by reinforcement weight with an epoxy resin matrix, was woven out of more than 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) of reinforcement tow on a temporary steel frame with anchor points to position the fiber tows. The tows, impregnated with resin before they were placed by the robotic arm, were placed individually for optimal strength properties.

Composite Pavilion spinning
According to the team’s data, the composite pavilion is just 4 millimeters (.16 inches) thick and spans 8 meters (26.25 feet) across and 3.5 meters (11.25 feet) high. The carbon fiber provided most of the stiffness to the structure, while the fiberglass helped with spacing and acted as a partition.

The team also designed a computer system that integrated the robotic automation, the design and the material testing. The bespoke lab environment used a six-axis robotic arm.

For more information, pictures and videos, read the University of Stuttgart’s composite pavilion page.

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2 comments

1 CompositeBuild { 07.03.13 at 12:43 pm }

This is a very nice design. We will also show this on the compositebuild.wordpress.com blog. The compositebuild blog is focused on composites use in architectural applications.

2 Composites Pavilion | CompositeBuild.com { 07.03.13 at 1:56 pm }

[…] composites pavilion shown above (learn more here) isn’t the only composites pavilion you will find. The architectural division of the American […]

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