Troels H. Pedersen and Torben Lenau:
Variable Geometry Casting of Concrete Elements Using Pin-Type Tooling,
J. Manuf. Sci. Eng. -- December 2010 -- Volume 132, Issue 6, 061015 (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4003122

Today, free-form parts are made in small production volume with time consuming methods and a significant amount of material waste. These methods include computer numerical control (CNC)-machining and the layered rapid prototyping techniques stereolithography apparatus (SLA), selective layer sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), 3D print, etc., which are well suited for smaller parts that are rich in detail. Variable geometry molds (VGMs) offer a different approach to small production volume. A die or mold can change shape between the castings, and parts with a different geometry can be made in the same mold. VGM is used in a multitude of applications such as sheet metal forming of parts for aircrafts, trains, and cranial prostheses. The present project focuses on VGM for free-form concrete facade elements, which, in contrast to previous VGM projects, uses a liquid raw material and involves the use of only a small amount of force. The present VGM process is based on the so-called reconfigurable pin-type tooling (RPT) principle. The geometric possibilities have been examined using a proof-of-concept RPT test mold. Sixty closely packed adjustable pin-elements with hemispherical tops and a square section of 43.3×43.3 mm2 create a dimpled surface that is evened out using an elastic interpolating layer. Castings with concrete and plaster are made on an elastic membrane that is sucked toward the pins using a vacuum. The shape of the cast elements and the mold surface have been measured and compared. The RPT test mold can produce a large variety of free-form geometric shapes. It is possible to make straight vertical surfaces and even horizontal surfaces with dimples of only 0.3 mm. Part details can be made down to the size of a pin with hole depths up to 65 mm and protrusions up to 19 mm. Repeatability is better than the measurement uncertainty. VGMs using the RPT principle can be used for making scale models of a range of free-form cast concrete façade elements. It is almost possible to remove the imprints from the pins by using the right interpolators, but the dimples could also be a visually attractive characteristic of the process that could be valued by architects. Large hole depths and smaller protrusions are possible.