Metal AM used to produce exterior wall components for coming Seattle skyscraper

March 12, 2019

Metal AM used to produce exterior wall components for coming Seattle skyscraper

Digital rendering of the new Rainier Square Tower seen from ground level (Courtesy NBBJ)


3Diligent, a digital manufacturing services provider based in El Segundo, California, USA, was recently engaged by commercial cladding company Walters & Wolf (W&W), Fremont, California, USA, to manufacture 140 unique aluminium exterior curtain wall nodes by metal Additive Manufacturing. The nodes were designed by W&W to enhance the look and feel of the upcoming Rainier Square Tower in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Expected to be completed in 2020, the new Rainier Square Tower will become Seattle’s second tallest building. The structure will comprise a fifty-eight story tower with a unique sloping appearance; with a step back on each building floor, the cladding system for each floor will have a different angle and require complex geometries to fit together perfectly.

W&W worked with 3Diligent from the prototype stage through to production to produce the 140 nodes, which each have varying dimensions and measure up to nearly a cubic foot in size. As geometries changed throughout the building’s design, 3Diligent drew on its metal AM design expertise to ensure each geometry met W&W’s exacting specifications.

“From an operations standpoint, we were impressed with 3Diligent’s consistency in delivery of highly accurate and complex parts in a timely fashion that was in sync with the production schedule we established early on,” explained Tony Parker, Project Executive at Walters & Wolf. “At the end of the day, 3Diligent upheld their end of the bargain – they simply did what they said they would do.”


Metal AM used to produce exterior wall components for coming Seattle skyscraper

The new Rainier Square Tower is expected to be completed in 2020 (Courtesy NBBJ)


To achieve the unique ‘sloped’ design of the tower, each piece of the curtain wall needed to be custom fabricated to meet the geometry of that section of the building. Walters & Wolf determined the best approach would be to create V-shaped nodes that ranged in size, that would bring together square cut parts of the curtain wall. After experimenting with a variety of manufacturing processes and receiving responses from some vendors to say that they could not complete the work, Walters & Wolf turned to 3Diligent.

3Diligent presented two manufacturing processes to the cladding company – investment casting and Additive Manufacturing – and delivered first articles from both of the different processes. These were assembled into curtain wall units and sent to an independent testing laboratory in Fresno, California, USA, for performance mock-up testing to ensure the nodes did not experience any cracking or any kind of failure when installed on the building. While the parts don’t carry a large structural load, the nodes would need to have good adhesion with silicone and be able to remain watertight and airtight.


Metal AM used to produce exterior wall components for coming Seattle skyscraper

The metal additively manufactured aluminium exterior curtain wall nodes (Courtesy 3Diligent)


After testing, Walters & Wolf selected metal AM as their preferred choice. “It was great that 3Diligent gave us both investment casting and 3D printing options so that we could choose between them,” commented Jon Ishee, the W&W designer assigned to the project. “We prototyped in both technologies and ultimately picked 3D printing because of the dimensional accuracy and structural reliability it gave us.”

Cullen Hilkene, CEO of 3Diligent, stated, “We were honoured when Walters & Wolf engaged 3Diligent as its manufacturing partner for this project. Both the tower and these specific parts represent the sort of innovation that 3Diligent strives to enable every day. It was great collaborating with Walters & Wolf on such a compelling project and we look forward to seeing the completed tower in 2020!”

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