Textiles have been used in architecture ever since humankind began to build. Already nomadic tribes have used their tensile strength, flexibility and adaptability to build their first shelters. Nowadays, the development of highly engineered fibers with growing strength-to-weight ratio as well as new production technologies allow for re-introducing textiles into the build environment as smart and sustainable solution.
This research investigates the technique of 3D printing on prestressed fabrics as a way of creating three-dimensional textile composites and explores potential applications of this method in the architectural industry. Design methodology takes advantage of the elasticity and self-shaping properties of these structures, looking into aspects such as materiality, modularity and scalability.
The form-finding process relies on 3D printing a less elastic material such as thermoplastic polymer on top of an elastic, pre-stressed fabric. After releasing the tension, the fabric transforms into a three-dimensional textile structure. Forms created in this way are pure representations of their material properties, energy stored in these materials and forces acting on them. As a result, they are structurally stable and inherently efficient.
As additive manufacturing becomes more affordable, materials more intelligent, and textiles more robust, the proposed form-finding technique has a lot of potential for designing efficient textile structures with optimized structural performance and minimal usage of material. Controlling the geometrical formations through temperature or humidity allows to envision self-regulating elements in exchange with the environment, resulting in new forms of architectural expression, soft and adaptive.