Vertex.3D juxtaposes historic mass production manufacturing techniques and the mass customization possible with 3D printing. While similar in overall form to a geodesic dome, the pavilion is comprised of unique pieces that allow subtle changes in the size, angle and proportion of the internal hexagonal cells. The pavilion is also an exploration of the feasibility of using standard desktop 3D printing machines and plastic filament to fabricate full scale structures.
The 11′-0″ (w) x 20′-0″ (l) x 10′-0″ (h) dome was constructed out of 168 3D printed vertices and 248 birch wood dowels, which acted as the struts. The 3D printed vertices were printed with PLA (polylactic acid) plastic on FDM (fused deposition modeling) style desktop 3D printers. Several rounds of prototyping were necessary to determine the optimal 3D printed vertex geometry and to develop an appropriate labeling system for assembly. One of the challenges was to take into account the slight differentiation between each wood dowel. The struts were all cut to custom lengths and labeled for assembly.
A Grasshopper script was used to develop the overall form, design the details, disseminate the vertex labeling system, and prepare the files for 3D printing. The overall form was optimized using Kangaroo and then subdivided using hexagonal cells. A T-Splines script was used within Grasshopper to create a smooth surface for the 3D printed vertices.
Each 3D printed vertex was labeled with a number corresponding to its location and letters for each axis. The wood struts were also labeled with corresponding row and axis designations, aiding the assembly. Once matched, the wooden struts simply slid into the 3D printed vertices and a small screw was used to secure its position. Overall, the pavilion assembly can be completed in 3 hours and it is very lightweight and easy to transport.
Vertex.3D is the first prototype in this line of research exploring 3D printed connections that form larger structures. The fabrication and assembly process revealed adaptations that could be made to the design to improve the ease of assembly and fabrication, as well as the structural stability of the final form. Further investigations will include testing various 3D printing filaments, as well as testing different space frame designs that can incorporate panels into the design.