The aim of the RotoColumn project is to develop a new manufacturing process for geometrically complex concrete columns.
By gently rotating the concrete, it is possible to produce hollow bodies with high quality concrete surfaces. Because less concrete is needed to produce these hollow bodies, less hydrostatic pressure is exerted on the formwork. As a result, lightweight, prestressed membranes can be used to create a new type of formwork that is both innovative and resource-efficient.
The project started out as a student research module and is a shining example of how an extensive research project involving industry partners can evolve from an undergraduate’s research interest.
Two specialist fields at the Technical University of Darmstadt are involved in the project – the Department of Architecture’s Digital Design Unit (DDU) and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Institute of Structural Mechanics and Design (ISM+D).
The project is funded by ZIM, the central innovation programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a funding initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
Concepts have been developed for modelling, simulating and manufacturing rotationally moulded, customised concrete hollow bodies using resource-efficient, geometrically flexible formwork systems. What makes this project innovative is that the concrete casting process is inspired by digital fabrication methods. Instead of treating formwork as material-intensive, CNC-milled one-off parts, or developing complex mechanical-kinetic formwork tables, in this project we use a concrete which can set while in motion, combined with thin-wall flexible formwork materials.