This body of research focuses on the potentials which arise by introducing machine knitting into the making of architectural materials, using methods of physical experimentation and computational simulation as the means for exploration. In particular, the use of flat-bed weft-knitting technology is utilized for the development of ultra-lightweight, highly articulated, pre-stressed, elastic structures. This is elaborated across the several studies shown in this exhibition which can all be defined as variants of a textile hybrid system. A textile hybrid utilizes the material properties of a textile as a pure tension (form-active) surface in combination with elastically bent (bending-active) composite elements to organize a material system as a structure in force equilibrium. Two variants of the textile hybrid logic are developed in this research: (i) knitted textiles in combination with glass-fibre reinforced (GFRP) rods, and (ii) pre-stressed textiles fully integrated with textile-based composites. Among other developments as a part of this research, the introduction of knitting technology allows for high degrees of geometric and surface differentiation to be accomplished with a minimal number of parts. The weft-knitting technology allows for detailed and complex topologies to be produced directly from the machine without any need for post-manipulation, such is most evident in the type i textile hybrids. The material is designed directly as it is intended for structural performance and spatial effect. In the type ii variants of the textile-hybrid logic, by designing the pre-stress (tension) in the textile and definition of stiffness in the composite regions, a post-forming process allows for detailed geometries to arise without the use of form-work (preforms). The pre-stressed textile “rebounds” as the tension is slowly released during the curing process. This post-forming induces curvature into the regions of composite with low bending stiffness. Additionally, pre-stressing is being utilized as a part of a robotically-driven process to stabilize a knit structure for composite forming. The robotic method heats and solidifies a thermoplastic monofilament within the knit to generate a rigid composite surface.
Sean Ahlquist, Wes McGee, Anthony Waas (UM Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering)
Project Team: Ali Askarinejad, Riz Chaaraoui, Karen Duan, Reid Fellenbaum, Pandush Gaqi, Peter Halquist, Ammar Kalo, Claire Kang, Xiang Liu, Nate Oppenheim, Luis Orozco, Kavan Shah, Peter Shaw, Yi Yuan
Collaborators: Liz Bartlett (Knit Designer, Grand Rapids), Bruce Huffa (Executive Director of Operations & Materials Research, Fabdesigns, Inc, Los Angeles), Julian Lienhard (Structural Engineer, str.ucture, Stuttgart, Germany), John MacGilbert (Textile Designer and Technician, Grand Rapids), Jane Scott (Textile Designer, University of Leeds, UK), Bettina Woerner (Textile Designer and Owner, Walter Wörner GmbH & Co, Pfullingen, Germany)