NOWLAB’s 3D printed BANYAN ECO WALL integrates self-watering plant feature

Though technology is often thought of in contrast to the natural world, certain innovations—such as generative design and 3D printing—are helping to connect us to nature in new and exciting ways. Large-format 3D printing company BigRep, for instance, recently unveiled a project called BANYAN ECO WALL, the world’s first fully 3D printed green wall.

The 3D printed eco wall was created by BigRep’s Innovation Consultancy, NOWLAB, and designers Mirek Claßen, Tobias Storz and Lindsay Lawson. Though still a prototype, the large-scale piece is fully functional and integrates a number of elements that make it “green,” including an embedded water supply and drainage system that hydrates plants that live in and on the structure.

Though other 3D printed green walls have been developed in the past, the BANYAN ECO WALL is notable for the fact that it is entirely 3D printed. That is, previous 3D printed green walls often incorporated metal drainage systems or other complex components which had to be added to the printed structure.

In this case, however, the complex drainage system was embedded directly into the eco wall’s printed form, which itself is inspired by the organic components of plants (including roots, stems and leaves).

3D printed using BigRep’s large-format FFF 3D printers, the stunning BANYAN ECO WALL is multi-functional, acting as a support structure for plants as well as a supply system for water. Its plant support function is more sophisticated than it sounds, as the wall is structurally optimized for the plant carriers to snap into place, resulting in a vibrant and naturally textured green installation.

The sophisticated drainage system spans the whole structure—which is made up of four segments and measures 2000 x 2000 x 600 mm—and consists of miniature internal channels that ensure optimal water flow and drainage. Further, the internal channels feature a “micro shower” mechanism that waters plants with precision. The complex internal geometry of the eco wall was enabled by generative design software and 3D printing.

“Our BANYAN ECO WALL is adopting nature’s principle with a complex, smart and elegant design only achievable with AM,” said BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer, PhD. “Traditional technologies such as milling or injection molding cannot deliver this level of complexity and dual functionality. For the first time, thanks to AM and advanced CAD software, it is now possible to create complex functional designs within a fully digitized process chain.”

Daniel Büning, BigRep CIO and NOWLAB Managing Director, emphasized the importance of generative design in the making of the eco wall, saying: Generative design software was crucial in the creation of the BANYAN ECO WALL to optimize the structure for printability and stability while allowing a rapid iterative design process. This prototype will push the boundaries of AM not only in irrigated plant systems, such as in vertical farming and green facades, but for any application requiring embedded functionalities.”

Though the BANYAN ECO WALL is a prototype, it demonstrates the potential to utilize 3D printing for the creation of unique and stylish green walls that integrated irrigation systems for the optimal (and automated) watering of plants. The project is certainly opens up interesting avenues for the future of urban farming and green interior decor.

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

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