Work begins on world’s tallest 3D printed structure, Switzerland

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Construction has broken ground on the tallest 3D printed structure in the world, the White Tower. Located in Mulegns, in the Swiss Alps, the structure is designed to be a venue for theater and music events.  The 3D printed tower will stand at 30 meters. Its design features 32 distinct Y-shaped columns, with each vaunting a pattern of textured details. The need for a traditional framework is eliminated by the use of a dedicated robot methodically extrudes concrete. It crafts each layer at a height of 8mm, a technique which brings in a new era of architectural design possibilities using 3-D printing.

History on the Tor Alva

Additionally, The White Tower employs 3D-printed concrete as a primary structural component. Moreover, it has steel reinforcement integrated during the robotic printing process. The “Tor Alva” project began three years ago as an initiative to revive the declining villages of the Julier Pass. This was once an important point of transit between Northern and Southern Europe. The population of Mulegns, the village where the tower is being installed, has drastically plummeted since its activity peaked in the mid-19th century. Today, only around 16 people live there, and many buildings sit abandoned and empty.

ETH Zurich The White Tower Tallest 3D Printed Structure

Nova Fundaziun Origen, the region’s cultural foundation, proposed that an architectural wonder like Tor Alva could hold the secret to the area’s revival, inspiring people to stop and visit, catch a performance and maybe even spend a couple nights. “Up until now, there was never any rebar integrated into the concrete. We’ve been able to integrate for the first time rebar into this concrete extrusion process. This allows us to build very, very high,” Hansmeyer told Euronews Culture.

The Project Designers

The tower was designed by two architects, Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer. The Digital Building Technologies group of ETH Zurich is developing the tower’s technology . They are working together with the Institute of Structural Analysis and Design (CSBD) and the Institute of Building Materials (PCBM) in the context of the National Competence Center Digital Fabrication. Based on the timeline that Michael Hansmeyer detailed, the 3D-printed White Tower is set to have its columns assembled in May 2024, with a June 2024 expected date of Tor Alva’s opening.

What’s more, dismantling the 3D-printed White Tower can be easy. The design team has this in their minds since they might think of rebuilding Tor Alva someplace else after serving its five-year life in the Swiss Alps. It helps that the architecture has a modular design that allows the individual components to be easily assembled and taken apart and be built again. Removable screws are used instead of adhesives.

The Wave House Data Center

This isn’t the only feat Europe has seen recently in the 3D printed structure world.  Just last month, the largest 3D-printed building in Europe was completed. The Wave House data center in Heidelberg, Germany, took 900 hours to complete and used nearly 450 tons of 100% recyclable printing concrete. It spans 600 m2 with dimensions of 54m in length, 11m in width, and 9m in height.

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