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Technology

World’s first twisting tower created from wood bends itself into shape

Although shape-shifting materials have previously been made by scientists but they are usually made of polymer that
Published June 11, 2019

Although shape-shifting materials have previously been made by scientists but they are usually made of polymer that bends when exposed to heat or moisture. However, for the first time, scientists have taken a different approach by creating a twisting tower made out of wood.

Researchers from the University of Stuttgart ‘programmed’ created a twisting tower, called ‘Urbach Tower’, made from timber that bends into shape by ‘programming’ the wood so it transforms into desired shaped.

“By carefully understanding and digitally modeling the deformations that occur in the drying process we can arrange the wood before drying to produce specific deformations,” team member Dylan Wood told New Atlas.

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“More specifically, we build flat wood bilayers plates (two layers with opposing grain directions) while the wood still has a relatively high moisture content. The plates are dried using industrial drying processes and they emerge curved. The species of wood, grain orientations, thickness ratios, and the change in moisture during the drying process are all parameters that affect the curvature.”

The team says that its tower is the first one globally to use self-shaped building-scale components. The bilayers were produced to contain 22% wood moisture content and then were dried to 12%, which is standard for this kind of construction. Once dried and curved, the bilayers were stacked and glued together to lock their curvatures in place.

The components were then transported to a site where it was assembled into an amazing 45ft tower featuring a transparent roof. The tower was later finished with a protective facade of larch wood. The tower is also equipped with sensors that will track moisture content over the decade to try and keep tabs on any further bending.

“The elegant part here is that we don’t need to add water as wood cut starts with a high moisture content, so in a way we are just strategically intervening in the drying process to use the shrinking forces rather than fighting them,” as per Wood.

It is hoped that the Urbach Tower acts as a proof-of-concept for a form of self-shaping architecture, hence making wood a more appealing material of various projects, while also cutting down costs.

“While making this work is relatively simple, predicting the outcome is the real challenge,” said researcher Achim Menges. “Being able to do so opens up many new architectural possibilities.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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