Digital manufacturing company 3Diligent was selected by commercial cladding company Walters & Wolf to 3D print a series of exterior curtain wall nodes for the new Rainier Square Tower in Seattle. The building, which is expected to be complete in 2020, will be Seattle’s second tallest building, following the 76-story Columbia Center.
To be totally clear, the Rainier Square Tower will not itself be 3D printed, but that doesn’t make the fact that it will feature some 3D printed elements any less cool. The new building, which will rise 58 stories high and is estimated to cost $600 million, will add something unique to the Seattle skyline with its subtly sloping silhouette.
This unique silhouette is being achieved thanks in part to 3D printing. That is, each floor of the building will be set a step back from the preceding one, which will necessitate a custom cladding system. The cladding system, for its part, will have different angles and will require complex geometries to fit together. 3Diligent is leveraging its metal 3D printing expertise to deliver 140 unique exterior curtain wall nodes so that the exterior cladding comes together.
Walters & Wolf worked very closely with 3Diligent to design, prototype and produce the aluminum nodes, each with varying dimensions of up to nearly a cubic foot. Interestingly, at the beginning of the collaboration, the digital manufacturing company gave Walters & Wolf the choice between two manufacturing possibilities, investment casting and 3D printing.
After sample nodes made using both processes were assembled into curtain wall units and tested, Walters & Wolf found that the 3D printed nodes were more suitable for the project because of their superior dimensional accuracy and structural reliability. Throughout the project, metal 3D printing enabled 3Diligent to turn out parts that were up to the cladding company’s standards and specifications.
“From an operations standpoint, we were impressed with 3Diligent’s consistency in delivery of highly accurate and complex parts in a timely fashion that was in sync with the production schedule we established early on,” commented Tony Parker, Project Executive at Walters & Wolf. “At the end of the day, 3Diligent upheld their end of the bargain—they simply did what they said they would do.”
The 3D printed wall nodes were made in a range of v-shaped sizes. When assembled, they are designed to bring together the square cut parts of the tower’s curtain wall. Each piece of the curtain wall—which is a thin, non-structural outer wall of a building—had to be custom fabricated to create the desired sloping effect of the building.
“We were honored when Walters & Wolf engaged 3Diligent as its manufacturing partner for this project,” added Cullen Hilkene, CEO of 3Diligent. “Both the tower and these specific parts represent the sort of innovation that 3Diligent strives to enable every day. It was great collaborating with Walters & Wolf on such a compelling project and we look forward to seeing the completed tower in 2020!”