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Quick, sustainable and cost-efficient manufacturing of 3D panels for the construction sector

An EU initiative introduced reconfigurable tooling to boost the global competitiveness of the European building and construction industry.
Quick, sustainable and cost-efficient manufacturing of 3D panels for the construction sector
Nowadays, construction and civil engineers are seeking ways to develop advanced methods and novel equipment for building fabrication and assembly that are flexible, economical and reusable. Multi-point forming (MPF) technology provides tremendous hope for the future.

The EU-funded FLEXITOOL (Flexible tooling for the manufacture of free-form architectural cladding and façades) project developed reconfigurable MPF tooling technology for industrial applications in architectural and civil engineering structures.

Work began by investigating the fundamentals of reconfigurable MPF methodology and capabilities of reconfigurable fabrication tooling technology for architectural panels. Analyses of SME and end-user demands, and of the reconfigurable MPF mechanism, were performed for mouldless thermoforming applications.

Project partners designed and fabricated a prototype machine with computer software and automatic robotic control techniques based on reconfigurable MPF principles. They combined the built variable tooling with computer software and a robotic control unit.

The integrated system was used for testing thermoforming typical surface panels in thermoplastic polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride. The software interface and thermoformed samples were validated.

Researchers thermoformed the 3D complex architectural cladding panels in medium- and full-size thermoplastic polymethyl methacrylate sheets with the system. They validated the thermoformed cladding panels with industrial SMEs using a laser scanner/digital camera to measure profile and geometric accuracy.

The FLEXITOOL manufacturing cell’s large modular robotic MPF machine provides an alternative to traditional fixed tooling for the manufacture of thermoplastic and composite cladding and façade panels. It changes its own surface geometry to conform to material requirements and 3D computer-aided engineering data supplied by architects. The innovation will enable rapid, reliable and cost-effective manufacturing of architectural panels in building with digitally controlled variable geometry tooling.

FLEXITOOL’s reconfigurable MPF tooling technology is a step above existing thermoforming that uses dedicated solid mould or fixed hard dies. By combining novel MPF technology with robotic control technology, the project contributed to realising the full potential of reconfigurable tooling.

Related information


Reconfigurable tooling, multi-point forming, FLEXITOOL, architectural cladding, thermoforming
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