Slicelab was established in 2012 by Arthur Azoulai and Diego Taccioli as an experimental design studio operating between the disciplines of art and architecture. The intent of the latest Delicate Density Table project was to research a new fabrication and mold-making method for complex concrete forms by using 3D printing.
Ultimately, the goal was to make a piece of furniture that embodies an optimal balance of delicateness in form and density in the material. Concrete’s ability to take on any shape shares a strong similarity to how rapid prototyping is able to produce nearly any geometry. The potential of combining these two mediums was seen as a great opportunity.
Concrete as a material has a very strong compressive strength yet it is brittle when used for finer geometries that create loads of tension. This exploration was geared toward the understanding of what that minimal threshold of delicate form it can take on while keeping its full capacity of strength.
The importance of using 3D printing in this application was how it could leverage its ability to produce any unique and complex design without hindering the time or cost to create such forms. Through digital simulation and optimization, we were able to predetermine the overall structure.
Due to the overall size of the table design (dimensions 5’x1 ½’x15”- 152,5 cm x 45,5 cm x 38cm and weight 190lbs – 86kg), the digital model was broken down into 23 pieces reflecting the build volume constraints of the print machine. All of the parts were optimized and oriented in a specific manner to ensure printing with the least additional support which later proved to expedite the assembly process. The pieces all aggregated together into one large singular mold which weighed roughly 66 lbs of PLA recycled plastic.
The mold was developed for the concrete to be poured upside down. Using the voids at the base of the mold, concrete was poured into these 3 access points, through the 10 legs, and into the main cavity. This strategy ensured that the majority of the air bubbles would stay within the mold on the tables’ bottom side while also keeping the top surface blemish free creating two contrasting looks.
A built-in leveled diamond platform was designed onto the top surface of the table mold that allowed for the piece to be poured flat and upside down. This reinforcement was the most robust part of the mold which also kept the center of gravity low and grounded throughout the pouring process and was the only part designed to be released from the concrete in one piece.
The focus fabrication process was to study form through the material and thus mold was not intended to be kept intact. The investment mold was broken off piece by piece to reveal the cured concrete end product within. The remaining pieces of the mold were salvaged through the recycling of the plastic for later use.
Upon releasing the piece, the surface finish mimicked the striations that the 3D printed plastic inherently left of the surface. Diamond pad wet sanding was done to achieve a mirror-like finish. This process allowed for the fluid form of the tables’ top to be emphasized and contrast the porous texturing of the legs. There is a gradient of smoothness that blends down from the top to the finish of the legs.