Webinar Recap: Revolutionizing Architecture and Construction with 3D Printed Formwork

Last week, we aired our very first webinar on 3D printing and its emerging role in construction and architecture. We were thrilled to have so many people joining from around the world – many people tuned in from across Europe, the US and Asia Pacific! If you missed it, never fear – you can watch a recording of the webinar here and read on for a recap of the topics explored and the ideas shaping the industry.

After a brief introduction from Abbey Delaney, BigRep America’s Marketing Manager, NOWlab’s co-founder Jörg Petri began the webinar, joined by Prof. Tobias Wallisser, co-founder of LAVA and professor of innovation construction and spatial concepts. Together they explored their vision of a unified construction process and make a strong case for the current and future uses of 3D printing in the industry. Petri and Wallisser presented various fascinating use cases, including the never-before seen sensor integration project. Below is a very brief summary of the webinar, but we do encourage you to watch it yourself for the full effect, including slides, images and videos!

Construction with 3D Printing - A smart concrete wall

New Digital Craft

The construction industry is demanding a shift towards more automation and robotic tools, which opens up the chance for architects and engineers to address and solve new topics that were traditionally addressed only by highly skilled and experienced craftsmen. The problem is that these craftsmen do not exist anymore or are too cost intensive for the average project. In this context, we coined the word ‘digital craftsmanship’, which means that the current technology in the context of Industry 4.0 has the potential to bring back the advanced skills of former craftsmen in a digital context. At the forefront for innovation in the construction industry are the materials. One user case is presented in the webinar of a 3D printed model, where the water-soluble PVA filament is used as support and is embedded in cement. The example shows the new possibilities for designing structures and molds with complex geometries, enabled by the soluble filament.

Innovative Building Construction

The first example given in this topic was the Sagrada Familia by Gaudi (Barcelona, Spain), which has been developed and built using the first notes of ‘parametric’ thinking in the form of physical models – a design method based on rules and parameters to develop the shapes and the processes behind the design (that of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, in the 1880s).

The next example Petri and Wallisser reference is the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, which was inaugurated in 2006 and was the first project successfully built through the use of CAD CAM technology directly linked to fabrication processes.

Process Chains Automotive vs Construction

Compared to construction, the automotive industry has the whole process from design and planning to assembly in-house. This is not the case for the construction industry, which utilizes an outdated linear process, meaning the demand for new digital tools is great. Industry 4.0 enables now the linking of digital fabrication to the design and CAD CAM processes.

The full process chain can be viewed in the webinar, but essentially the result is that facades and new buildings can work with 3D-printed casts, allowing for a more advanced design, increased building speed and improved building efficiency. One core example is a project conducted by NOWlab in cooperation with Geiger, to restore the facade of a monument using 3D printing. The cast models were printed, and the concrete pieces were installed on the building.

Construction with 3D Printing


Since the 1990s, advancements in graphic design has reached architecture, as people began designing free forms with complex geometrical structures. The only way of achieving this was with huge styrofoam blocks which were milled with CNC machines.

The example given in the webinar is the case of Frank Gehry Zollhafer in Düsseldorf, for which the formwork was milled for pre-casted elements one at a time. The problem with this method is that the milling produces a lot of styrofoam waste.

The advantages of 3D printing in this context are that you only print the material that is needed to form the concrete, and you can print high-quality polymers that are recyclable. If the strength is sufficient, you can even print PLA as biopolymer, which you do not need to recycle – you can give it back to the natural material flow.

To sum it all up, the webinar was an exciting experience for us at BigRep, as it gave us the opportunity to interact with our audience, answer their questions, and inspire new ideas and designs for construction and architecture. We can say with confidence that we will be looking forward to more webinars in the very near future. Save the date: September 6th we will be hosting the next webinar, so stayed tuned for registration details!

Many thanks to everybody who made the webinar possible, especially our illustrious hosts:

Jörg Petri / Co-founder of NOWlab Innovation Department of BigRep

Tobias Wallisser / Professor of Innovation Construction and Spatial Concepts – Co-founder of LAVA- Laboratory of Visionary Architecture in Berlin

Abbey Delaney / Marketing Manager, BigRep America

Watch the webinar

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