3D printed Hygroscopic Programmable Material Systems

2014 - Current | Research Projects
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

David Correa

Images by ICD University of Stuttgart

Project Video

Source: Vimeo

Bio-inspired 3D Printed Hygroscopic Programmable Material Systems

Development of computational design and digital fabrication of climate responsive material systems for architecture

Biological systems address performance challenges with limited resources by using complex and multi-layer structured assemblies. Nature makes use of structured material organizations and differentiation strategies to tackle competing performance criteria. Some biological systems, such as plant cones, have the capacity to adapt to their environment by harnessing external atmospheric conditions to trigger considerable responsive kinematic shape changes. Unlike conventional engineering systems, which rely on discreet functional components (sensors, actuators and controllers), biological systems rely on differentiated materials and structured material systems that are at the same time sensor, actuator, and regulator.

Previous research on Biomimetic Responsive Surface Structures at the Institute for Computational Design explored the transfer of these biological principles to architectural systems based on hygrocopically actuated wood-veneer composite sytems, leading to the development of the HygroScope Installation (Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2012) and a first building application for the HygroSkin Pavilion (FRAC Centre, Orleans, 2013). The research presented here seeks to expand these investigations through the possibility of numerically controlled, additive layer manufacturing technologies to engage design challenges at a material level.

The work focuses on utilizing the dimensional change of hygroscopic components of the 3D printed material system to trigger a shape change in response to fluctuations of external relative humidity. Computational tools are used to design the complex interaction between the various programmable and functional parameters of the material structure, making it feasible to manage complex four-dimensional articulations. The resulting Bio-inspired 3D Printed Hygroscopic Programmable Material Systems embody the capacity to sense, actuate and react to climatic changes, all within the material itself. These systems therefore provide a novel conceptual and practical framework for truly programmable environmentally responsive architectural systems.

Related Publications:

Poppinga, S., Correa, D., Bruchmann, B., Menges, A., Speck, T.: 2020, Plant Movements as Concept Generators for the Development of Biomimetic Compliant Mechanisms. Integrative and Comparative Biology vol. 60 no. 1, pp. 1–11. (doi: 10.1093/icb/icaa028)

Correa, D., Poppinga, S., Mylo, M., Westermeier, A., Bruchmann, B., Menges, A., Speck T.: 2020, 4D pine scale: biomimetic 4D printed autonomous scale and flap structures capable of multi-phase movement, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 378, pp. 20190445. (doi: 10.1098/rsta.2019.0445)

Correa, D., Menges, A.: 2017, Fused Filament Fabrication for Multi-Kinematic-State Climate Responsive Apertures, in Fabricate – Rethinking Design and Construction [Proceedings of the Fabricate Conference 2017], Stuttgart, pp. 190–195. (ISBN: 978 1 78735 001 4; JSTORE: j.ctt1n7qkg7.30)


ICD Institute for Computational Design and Construction - Prof. Achim Menges

Scientific Development

David Correa

Cooperation Partners

Plant Biomechanics Group, University of Freiburg - Dr. Simon Poppinga

Self-Assembly Lab, MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Skylar Tibbits

Research Support

Noztek Ltd.
MakerBot Europe GmbH
Felix Robotics

Research Assistants

Belen Torres, Paula Baptista, Alexander Wolkow


Getty Lab

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Selected Publications

Correa, D., Papadopoulou, A., Guberan, C., Jhaveri, N., Reichert, S., Menges, A., and Tibbits, S. : 2015, 3D Printed Wood: Programming Hygroscopic material transformation. 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, Volume 2, No.3, Mary Ann Liebert. pp.106-116. DOI: 10.1089/3dp.2015.0022

Correa, D. Menges, A.: 2015, 3D Printed Hygroscopic Programmable Material Systems, in Sabin, J., Gutierrez, P., Santangelo, C., MRS Proceedings, Volume 1800, mrss15-2134303 DOI:10.1557/opl.2015.644.

Correa, D., Krieg, O., Menges, A., Reichert, S., Rinderspacher, K.: 2013, HygroSkin: A prototype project for the development of a constructional and climate responsive architectural system based on the elastic and hygroscopic properties of wood, in: Beesley, P., Khan, O., Stacey, M. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) – Adaptive Architecture, Waterloo/Buffalo/Nottingham, pp. 33-42. (ISBN 978-1-926724-22-5)

Reichert, S., Menges, A., Correa, D.: 2014, Meteorosensitive Architecture: Biomimetic Building Skins Based on Materially Embedded and Hygroscopically Enabled Responsiveness, CAD Journal, Elsevier, June 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.cad.2014.02.010 (ISSN 0010-4485)

Contact Information

This image shows David Correa

David Correa

M.Arch., B. Sci

Doctoral Candidate

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