Curving façades – metal forming

Materials World magazine
1 Dec 2009
Building design

Formtexx, London, UK, has launched software and a mass production process to achieve 3D double curvature façades in construction using metal forming technology influenced by the automotive industry.

At the launch at The Building centre, London, on 19 October, John Gould of Formtexx said the technology gives architects the freedom to create freeform structures never before attempted because of the high cost, weight and time of manufacturing sheet metal for bespoke design.

Traditionally, sheet metal development falls into two categories – manual analogue techniques of wheeling, rolling and incremental sheet forming that produce unique shapes in small quantities with inherent dimensional deviation or die stamping, or fabrication of identical shapes in mass production quantities.

Formtexx claims to have the benefits of digital manufacture for producing non-repeating freeform geometries, compatible with CAD/CAM/CNC metal plate/sheet forming, and CAD in mass production quantities with automotive precision.

Gould likens the digitally controlled system to a large desktop printer that can handle vast amounts of data spooled to individual sheets. A curvature panel is said to be produced every 20 minutes no matter how complex and different each panel may be.

Formtexx combined the expertise and resources of three leading companies, Whiston Industries, Stargate Resources and Barron Gould, from the fields of automotive bodywork manufacture, high level software development and 3D surface manipulation.

The first M-FORM prototype machine is now operational and a final version is scheduled for April 2010. The company says it can produce façade components using thin, lightweight metals, such as aluminium, stainless steel and titanium. Other suitable materials include mild steel, COR-TEN weathering steel and metal/polymer composites.

The manufacturing quality is said to be equal to automotive tolerances by simulating the effects of variable tool forming on plates for dimensional accuracy, spring back, residual stress, surface quality and throughput.

Further information: Formtexx