Materials that deliver detail, flexibility and transparency

Transparency is a good word. It is about clarity, but without letting down the guard. We want to look out and let others in but we still want a degree of control. It is also about flexibility and detail. We cannot work with an Architectural transparency with out due care for the way we deliver it. This month’s materials deliver detail, flexibility and transparency. They will also help push the creative boundaries.


GLASSX®

This is one competitive, contradictory little material. It is a translucent material that also heats and cools the building: Infact the phase change element of the unit is as comparable as a 25cm think concrete skin in terms of the amount of heat it can store making it feasible to replace solid walls with glass elements. GlassX ®Crystal is a triple glazed unit: a tempered external glass panel with a light prism within: a gap filled with innert gas and a internal tempered internal glass with the pcm within it.

The shaded effect is facilitated during the Summer months by the encapsulated transparent prism that above a certain angle of incidence will reflect all the direct sunlight allowing only the diffuse, low energy rays within. The lower angle of sunlight during the Winter months remains unimpeded.

As a thermal moderator, the non toxic salt phase change membrane  (pcm)melts into a liquid state at precisely 26 absorbing the thermal energy as the building warms up and recrystallizing as it cools down. The location of the pcm within this façade is integral to the thermal performance as it is able to absorb both the internal heat loads by convection and the external solar retaining  an internal temperature of 26-28. Infact, an office building could exist in a passive state during the Winter months with the additional human radiant heat and energy from electrical appliance.

The only slight fallibility is that the light transmission is quite low compared to a standard glass façade: reaching up to 55% for liquid pcm and 38% for crystalline. However there is a diaphanous quality that spreads like a watercolour paint across a sheet of paper as the salt gently morphs into its altered state and it is very simple to add other glazed units to the design.

Product Information:

Country of Distribution: Switzerland

Size:  Crystal is 79mm thick and max height 280mm and max width 250mm

Colour : translucent but may be changed using silk screen printing or additional coloured glass

Applications: External Facades 


Crystal Clear Silicone

The devil they say is in the detail and this is small, powerful package is one little demon. It is usually not easy to get to get overexcited by bonding but the this new crystal clear high strength silicon adhesive  (TSSA) from Dow Corning is a significant development in glass aesthetics. Quite simply it allows the glass to be fixed on one side without the need to penetrate the glass or laminated system providing a cleaner architectural solution. This is particularly useful  for coloured interlayers, allowing the façade or balustrading colour to flow uninterrupted . Clearly, it has other functional advantages; enabling usage of high performance insulated glass and gas -filled IG units in a frameless glazing facade. TSSA has a10 times higher structural design load compared to standard structural glazing sealants and an in built safety indicator that alters the coloration to white if the structural loading is exceeded. The silicone will revert to transparent once the load is removed. The silicon is produced as a series of buttons applied to the structure and should be a very welcome new innovation to both the Architect and the Installer.

Product Information:

Country of Distribution: UK

Size:  1mm thick, available in 50mm buttons on cards, other sizes available on request

Colour : Crystal Clear

Applications: Point fixing for glass facades including curved and laminated glass, balustrades and interior decorative glass

Other: Design Strength is 1.3MPa for dynamic loads and 0.6MPa for static loads

www.dowcorning.com


Gorilla Glass

Architecture just got lucky. The ceaseless demand for portable connection and its nascent technology is inadvertently creating new Architectural avenues. Gorilla Glass, currently used on over one billion electronic devices is now available for the likes of us. It is an ‘ultraglass’ – thin, strong, lightweight, damage resistant and visually superior. For example, when laminated and bent into a curve, the glass produces an undistorted reflect image; good news for those with body dysmorphia. Gorilla Glass is an alkali-aluminosilicate composition and it is this mineral composition combined with the ion- exchange process when placed in a 400C molten potassium salt bath that contributes to its toughness and scratch resistance. Part of the reason is that the larger potassium ions displace the sodium ions, producing a higher level of compressive strength by crunching up the atoms on the glass surface as it cools. Further more the glass may be laminated to various plastics or decorative surfaces for additional applications. Corning, the manufacturers behind Gorilla Glass just couldn’t help them selves though and Willow Glass, their latest glass innovation aimed primarily at OLED’ and LCD displays, s is produced in a continuous sheet similar to newsprint production. It is about 100 microns thick, similar to a piece of paper and delightfully bendy.

Product Information:

Country of Distribution: UK

Size:  2x1.5m and thicknesses from 0.55 to 1.5mm

Colour : Crystal Clear

Applications: interior include wall systems, area lighting panels, and lift walls and ceilings,, exterior building facades and overhead canopies, triple-glazed windows, hurricane windows and decorative glass wall structures

www.corning gorillaglass.com


Rubber Glass

Now here’s a material to ruffle feathers – strictly speaking this oxymoron is a tin-catalyzed clear silicone rubber. In effect 2 liquids are mixed together and cured at room temperature overnight. The emergent form is a water clear rubber that can be easily broken or crumbled to resemble small shards of glass’ perfect for human intervention. Whilst it my not be easy to make the Design connection between ‘broken glass’ and the built environment, it is a master with regards to the creation of special effects such as simulating ice or glass. Infact, the compound can even be poured over other surfaces such as glass for greater design creativity. In certain cases the surface will inhibit curing but that can be overcome with a barrier coat of clear acrylic.  There is something playful about this material. It may look dangerous but it instead of the bite you expect, it puckers up for a kiss.

Product Information:

Country of Distribution: USA

Size:  Available in pot format

Colour : Clear

Applications: Special Effects from cast moulds to surface decoration

www.inventables.com

The future of 3D Printing Materials

3D Printing is rapidly becoming an emergent Technology . Unlike traditional manufacturing that is subtractive i.e. a product is created from subtracting raw material such as cutting sheet, drilling holes, 3D Print is addictive manufacturing, in that material is added to make the product ,as opposed to a new form of manufacture we need to feel guilty about. 

There are 3 basic 3D printer types: SLS (selective laser sintering), FDM (fused deposition modelling) & SLA (stereolithography). SLS and FDM use melting or softening material to produce the layers  and with SLS, the unsintered powder acts to support the emerging object facilitating extraordinary geometries and this particular process also leaves little waste as the left over powder may be reused. 

The excitement of the potential for 3D Print is tempered by the knowledge that with the relatively unknown comes various hazards . On the most simple levels are the questions of how it will affect the manufacturing industry, concerns  about the freedom this gives to uncensored production and most importantly in the world of materials the iteration to print the un-necessary. 

The other questionable dilemma is in the feedstock used for print. just how sustainable is it?  Janine Benyus, the orator for Biomimicry , relates 3D print to life. her view is that there are 5 principle  building blocks and if it is possible for nature to be so successful, why can not 3 D print adopt  the same principles and work using simpler constituents? 

That being said, 3D Print is an avatar for new material development and that can only be good. Infact, the new raw materials are astonishing. For example, Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that riboflavin, or B12 can be used within 3D Printing to create medical implants, opening yet another door for medical innovation. 


Mango materials

Plastics or plastic composites are ubiquitous in 3D print. But as we shift trajectories into the green material domain, bioplastics are a natural new ally. Mango materials, a new bioplastic based company is developing a material that uses waste methane gas from a treatment plant or landfill as the main feedstock. They view the process as a closed loop production, capitalising on the wealth of construction material waste that produces methane as it degrades. Their system is designed to use the methane piped to a factory co-located which is then converted using microbes into a biopolymer  called PHB ( poly-hydroxybutryate ) in either pellet or powder format. This is similar in format to polypropylene and may, if fibres are added, also create an artificial ‘wood’. One of the key potential problems for 3D Print is the absence of resin codes that notify the waste authorities how the plastic may be disposed of. This new material though may be disposed of either aerobically or anaerobically. As it degrades  and emits methane. Mango, are once again, in the perfect position to reuse, thus completing the cycle.

Product Information:

Country of manufacture:USA

Status: Material Still in development and being tested

Future applications: Material for the construction Industry from decking to facade, products ranging from electronic casings to toys and packaging

www.mangomaterials.com


Living Print

There is possibly something a little disconcerting about being able to print a material that then takes on a life of its own. But this is precisely what Designer Eric Klarenbeek, working with mushroom experts and scientists, has managed to orchestrate. His particular 3D material is based upon a mixture of water, fine powdered straw inoculated with mushroom spores and bioplastic. Klarenbeek modified the FDM Printer by removing the nozzle and feeding an extruded straw paste rather than the normal more solid coil through it. The ensuing print is a composite format with the bioplastic printed first to provide a thin translucent skin encasing the straw and spore mix. Once complete the chair is placed into a high humidity environment to allow the biological synthesis to occur. The spores, using the water and humidity digest the straw, producing a lightweight, dense structure that would continue to grow within the bioplastic skin if it was constantly nourished.  

Micro perforations were added into the bioplastic skin and the yellow oyster mushrooms emerged through it. Klarenbeek’s work is more important than pure aesthetic; it stretches the boundaries of mental plausibility and in doing so, further reinforces the creative potential between biology and mankind working in harmony.

Product Information:

Country of manufacture: Netherlands

Status: Live Project

Current applications: Grown Furniture, product, Interior, Architecture

www.ericklarenbeek.com


Helico

'HELICO' is a 3d printed, stone tiling wall system, developed by Richard Beckett and Sam Welham as part of their on-going architectural research into 'Digital Stone'.  Helico brings 3D Print firmly into the Architectural arena. This Printed-Sand Product mixes  architectural issues of assembly, loading and integrated construction with similar working parameters to stonework.  It is digitally designed and additive layer manufactured and as a result each tile, measuring 420cm wide by 485cm high, utilises the benefit of 3D printing to create unique variation throughout the whole piece without adding to the cost of fabrication. According to Beckett, “The concept of the whole interprets helical forces into an ornate, single patterned surface. Yet with depths varying from 5cm to 25cm, each tile is entirely unique, expressing more complex relationships of formal depth and part-to-whole connections. “ This approach maximises the effect of surface relief with exaggerated proportions rarely seen in stone tiles, facings or blockwork systems. Helico is a tight lipped, tightly jointed piece but this large scale , heavyweight 3D print provides an ideal proposition for an interior or exterior feature piece for anyone inspired by contemporary architecture.

Product Information:

Country of manufacture: UK

Status: Live 

Modular assembly system available in any size, form and can match any colour specification

Current applications: Interior and Exterior Vertical applications. 

www.richard-beckett.com


3D Leather

Tissue engineering and 3D print is the heady combination of father and son team Gabor and Andras Forgacs and their company, Modern meadow, uses some of their previous experiences making human tissues for pharmaceutical research and other medical applications. Unlike these tissues that had to be kept alive, Modern meadow’s “postmortem animal tissues are simpler to build and faster to market”. “The process involves using 3-D printing to deposit clumps of cells into patterns of tissue. The particles fuse post-printing--similar to cell development in embryos.”The built Hide is then turned into leather.

This Modern farming Model could alleviate many environmental and animal welfare problems. For example, animal farming uses 1/3 of all available non frozen land, accounts for 50% of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions and consumes vast quantities of water. It also uses 45% less energy than traditional farming. Not surprisingly interest in this project is huge and industries that use leather may well benefit from a more efficient supply chain.Next on their agenda is… steak.

Product Information:

Country of manufacture: USA

Status: Live  - limited production run in 2014

www.modernmeadow.com


Electrically Conductive  Printable Gel

This new development is a captivating material in all sense of the word. It is a jelly like substance and so has a large surface area with the ability to conduct electricity like metal or a semi conductor. It is ,strictly speaking, not a 3D Print material as it can be printed onto a surface using a conventional inkjet printer and will not solidify until the final part of the process. The Spongy nature of this conducting hydrogel is created by linking long chains of an organic compound called aniline together with phytic acid, another natural compound found in plant tissues.  This acid not only links the polymer chains effectively but it also adds a charge to them and hence the super electrical conducting capabilities of this new material. In addition, the Hydrogel has a multiple of micropores which expand the surface area, “ increasing the amount of charge it can hold, its ability to sense chemicals and rapidity of its electrical response.  

Professors Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao from Stanford Labs believe that it this Gel has a future in applications ranging from energy storage to medical sensors to biofuel cells. The world of Architecture and Design may though, have a very different view.

Product Information:

Country of manufacture: USA

Status: In Development

contact: zbao@stanford.edu

Searching for new materials for buildings - An Interview with Doris Sung

Doris Sung researches materials for architecture.  It's an unusual area and there are few people doing it. Doris uses, what she or some call smart geometries - to make the materials operate.  Doris and her team are constantly looking at new materials for buildings. Her most celebrated project is the thermal bimetal façade she created. A material that responds to changes in it’s environment.

Your work has been highly received with a lot of accolades. You started as a biologist first of all. So what made you move into architecture?

When I was in college, I started as a biology major and I wanted to go to medical school.  My advisor advised me that if I changed my major, it would differentiate me on my medical applications.  So I thought I would try architecture because it seemed easy compared to biology.  And I kind of liked it.  So I ended up switching my majors in order to get to medical school and it wasn't until after I graduated and took time off that I actually decided to go back to graduate school for architecture.  So it took a while for me to come around to think that architecture was a field that I wanted to pursue. 

There's lots of nature in your current work in the way it breathes. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of that?

Well I think a lot of things in nature were efficiently - I mean, everything has evolved and taken millions of years to evolve and so the way that it works seems to be much more cohesive and holistic as opposed to some of the ways that we think of building and construction.  So as a source of inspiration, it seems like the most obvious one, to me at least.

The projects that you've done have been very successful.  Would you want them to go onto a larger, greater scale as well? 

Yeah, the intent is to get it on to architecture and on to building facades, on to building skins.  And to make it effective, to make it useful as a complete skin system that's just reactive to either the outside temperature changes or even to the inside temperature changes as well.

Fantastic.  And are leading manufacturers getting involved and on board with this idea?

Yeah.  Working with the manufacturers of thermal bimetal is one and that's from the industry side of the metals.  And starting to work with some of the window companies and façade companies in finding ways to bring it to building components and to the market eventually. 

Would you ever think about using thermal metals to create smaller component? Wearable technologies perhaps? 

Yes.  The ultimate use of it is still on an architectural scale.  But the metal that we're using right now, we're considering some of it at micro or nano scale.  What we do is we're trying to develop some of the geometries and the patterns at what I would call human scales - things that you can see and touch and move with the bimetals - in hopes that we take it to a scale that you possibly cannot see. 

Amazing.  So with the windows, is this a very new project you're working on?

Yeah.  We are currently working on it.  It's on the boards right now in trying to develop that.

That's exciting. So it is similar to bio-mimicry? What do you think of other bio-mimicry projects?

I can't say that it truly is bio-mimicry.  If anything, it's more bio-inspired.  I say that mainly because some people get pretty technical about it. So even for me, there's a lot of inspiration.  Instead of trying to find more conventional ways that we operate and use temperature, moisture, air in architecture, by looking at some of the animal kingdom or the plant kingdom, we can start to consider different ways to, for example, draw in air to a building or to move it across a surface.  And possibly, hopefully, come up with better ideas as a result of it.

I presume they are great for air conditioning systems?

Yeah but also everything about how to use this material in cold temperatures - actually very cold temperatures.  One of my employees, he grew up in the North East US where it gets pretty cold in the wintertime.  He wants to build in the snow.  I said absolutely not because I actually don't like cold that much whatsoever and also because we build everything ourselves.  The thought of being out in the cold day after day is really awful to me.  So as a result of that, he had been thinking about how to make and design some self-assembly systems.  The original idea is if there's a way that I can wear ski gloves and stand outside and just put the pieces down on the ground and just use a blow torch to assembly this whole thing, then I'm in.

So we laughed about it for a while but then we realised that as a first step, why can't we make these self assembly systems?  So right now, another project that we're working on is building and designing these systems that require no labour whatsoever, just by the geometry and the shape, we can design it to self assemble.  And right now we have these systems that make a chain.  So we can make these pieces in just a little bit of heat.  So that is kind of the first step towards that direction of eventually getting to something that can just assembly without any human interaction.

Fascinating.  Are the pieces all different sizes?  And varying thicknesses?

Well the material comes in different thicknesses, yes.  Or it comes in any thickness you want actually and you have to just specify how thick or thin you want it.  And so, the thicker it is, the higher temperature it operates in. That's structural.  It uses a much more heavy gauge, the metal.  It required a temperature to heat it. So it was very, very strong.  So at room temperature, it is extremely stiff and cannot be taken apart.  In order to take the thing apart, you have to take it up to cooking temperature.  For us, that's three hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit.  I don't know how much that translates? And then the very, very thin material is the stuff that we can cut down or trim down and pattern for more micro, smaller seals.  And it operates at very low temperatures.  It's all relative to the thickness, to the temperature it operates at and the geometries that we cut it, and pattern it.

To find more about Doris please find her on the creators project, http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk, where there are some remarkable videos of her work and also check out he architectural practice dosu http://www.dosu-arch.com. 

Turning Agricultural Waste Into New Materials - A Plausible/Implausible interview with Spyros Kizis

Materials researcher and process designer Spyros Kizis is part of the Plausible/Implausible exhibition currently on at SCIN. We were interested in finding out more about his current work and future plans.

1. You are currently featured in our exhibition Plausible Implausible. Can you please tell me more about how you started to experiment with agricultural waste, turning it into new materials?

The hole project started as an investigation on alternative ways to redevelop Greek economy after the crisis. The main idea was to take advantage of local natural sources, in order to design and make products. Though lot of research I ended up using the Artichoke Thistle, which is produced for biofuel purposes under an extremely low cost, and the waste of it gave the results of this project. What is fascinating about this process and all projects under the same principals, is the way from nothing to something, or if you wish, from something useless to something useful.

2. What do you think people’s perception of design is when using a new material? How do you feel the Artichair fits in this rapidly evolving design scene?

In my opinion, there is a total different way of design thinking behind the so called "materiality". Instead of traditionally thinking what material could we use to built a specific project, the process now comes in reverse; what could we built with a new awkward material that we have in our hands? This way we explore new potentials, new designs new concepts. I want to believe that Artichair fits really well in this scene. My ambition though is to go a step further and instead of staying limited to a crafts scale and cool experimentation, be part of a sustainable mass production which affects considerably more our lives.

3. What is the future you predict for your material? Do you have any larger scale plans for it?

The future plans are quite big and exciting. I was lucky enough to be approached by people that saw an opportunity in this, that are sensitive in environmental issues, and very open minded to give chances to young people. I am talking about the Schaffenburg office furniture company from the Netherlands, with which we are now designing a new chair which they are going to put in production soon. 

4.Can you see your material being used in other industries?

I could see the material being used in other industries, mainly in interiors and panels. What I would find really interesting though is a collaboration with chemical engineers in order to extract the cellulose from the plant and make bio plastic suitable for injection molding techniques. In this way the range of industries the material could be used broadens a lot.

5. Are you planning on experimenting with any other waste materials in the future?

Experimentation with other waste materials is a way I would like to continue working, but that does not mean that I will not continue working with more traditional pr commercial techniques. At the moment I am working on a project about pending lights, experimenting with wood ashes, waste polystyrene boxes and bio-resins. 

Endlessly Creative at the End of Year

At this years end of year student shows, repurposed vernacular materials were of great fascination. A new era of waste appropriation was at the forefront of collection, investigation and product development, with students eager to find new ways with the materials that lay scattered around our contemporary age.

 

At Brighton University Clare Evans studies into the reuse of the local vernacular refuse stream - sea waste plastics . Her Extraordinary from the Ordinary project looks to combine a variety of waste plastics that litter the ocean from micro beads (found in exfoliating skin products) to waste sea rope and plastic bottles washed up on the sea shore; shredding, heating and reforming them into a variety of uniquely patterned products. 

Tom Harris from Leeds Met Design course, on the other hand developed a new material made of highly sustainable waste cork granules and beeswax to produce his new luminaire called Cortica. The beauty of the material is that it can be endlessly melted down and reformed ensuring little or no waste in production of the lamp. The lamp itself takes inspiration from the honey dipper -its 5 discs allowing light to gently seep out. It’s a beautiful sensual material, just down go using searing hot tungsten bulbs in it …..!

Inspired by the natural world Marcin Rusak’s Flowering Transition range of products, focus on recreating the beauty of perishable objects in the products that we use everyday – so that once we’ve lost interest in, and discarded them they degrade naturally leaving those objects most precious to us to remain. Poetically his products have been made from discarded, shredded flower waste.

Another stunning material and product out of the Royal College of Art was Yasuhiro Suzuki’s ReCocoon Project. By boiling down silk cocoons he has been able to re-spin the silk thread to create a range of translucent lampshades, using the silks natural glue like protein Sericin to hold the lamp shape. Amazingly he can spin approximately 1.5 kilometres of thread from a single cocoon; the threads heat resistance and lightness adding to the strength and contrasting delicacy of each finished piece.

And lastly I was mesmerised by the surreal but visually delicious investigations of Johanna Schmeer from the RCA. Her work called BioPlastic Fantastic investigates new types of materials, products, and interactions which might emerge from  innovations in bio and nanotechnology.

These 7 organically inspired design products are intended to feed all aspects of human needs to survive  –encompassing water, vitamins, fibre, sugar, fat protein and minerals. If you have a moment do take a look at her sensual film -  http://www.johannaschmeer.com/film/ . 

The excitement for me of visiting student end of year shows is in the creativity, investigations and vision of material development unencumbered by financial constraints or consumer needs. Its raw passion for better materials for a better world fascinating.