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Ice Formwork

The Rationale and Potential of Ice-Based Moulding Systems  for the Production of Complex-Geometry  Precast Concrete

Time: Thu 2020-12-03 14.00

Location: För videolänk registrera er hos / For videolink register at, Du som saknar dator/datorvana kan kontakta / Use the e-mail address if you need technical assistance, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Architecture, Architectural Technology

Doctoral student: Vasily Sitnikov , Arkitektur, KTH

Opponent: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Harald Kloft, TU Braunschweig, Fakultät Architektur, Bauingenieurwesen und Umweltwissenschaften, Germany

Supervisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Oliver Tessmann, Arkitektur, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Department of Architecture (Dept.15), Germany; Prof. Dr. Tim Ainsworth Anstey, AHO, Institutt for form, teori og historie, Norway


This doctoral thesis analyses and makes proposals about adapting the poten-tial of digital means of production to the needs of the concrete industry. More precisely, it aims at fostering the development of sustainable material cycles and the innovation in manufacturing methods in the field of architectural and structural design of ultra-high performance fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC). The first part of the thesis approaches this intertwined technical problem of digital innovation in the production of concrete with an analysis of the current state of affairs in the concrete industry. As such, this analysis spans from the material science of concrete to life-cycle assessment to archi-tectural and structural design development discourse and computer-aided manufacturing. These analytical cogitations in turn lead to the experimental programme of the second part of the thesis. In the course of these research activities, a non-conventional material system based on robotically-processed ice moulds for non-standard cast concrete parts was found to support a highly economical, sustainable and automated production process, as well as to promote the advancement of concrete design in architecture and structural engineering.

The Ice Formwork system is a digital fabrication method proposed, stud-ied and tested in the course of this doctoral research. The method enables production of bespoke design geometry using artificially frozen water as the moulding material in lieu of the petrochemical or engineered wood prod-ucts conventionally used for the moulding. Water replaces the conventional non-recyclable moulding materials and can be continuously reused, forming an optimal closed-loop material flow in the production process.

It has been identified that the Ice Formwork method can significantly reduce the embodied energy and carbon footprint of the derivative concrete products and allows reduced cement consumption as it is compatible with UHPC, and that it fully supports the production of complex and mass-op-timized concrete structures. In addition, a unique practical advantage of Ice Formwork is the rapid and autonomous demoulding process facilitated by simple melting of the ice moulds. The method thus allows the robotic fab-rication of design geometry that would be unfeasible with other production methods.

The research work has resulted in a fundamental study of the new mate-rial configuration of ice-based concrete production. The technological system has been examined in three scientific areas: the material science of concrete, the robotic mechanical processing of ice with consideration of the challenges posed by architectural design geometry, and the environmental assessment of the proposed system. These disciplinary studies have been published through peer-reviewed sources and are appended to this thesis.