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Pneumatic Panels

Experiment with rhinoscript to generate pneumatic panels  to create cladding systems , the main objective of this project was to create a generative tool that it allows the designer to create cushion like panels from a set of closed polygons for implementing them in the design of buildings or spaces that contemplate the use of this cladding systems.
This script helps the designer to create several design tessellation ideas and automatically implement them in no time.
How does it woks.
-First you need to select se collection of closed polygon your are going to use for the creation of the panels. (Its important to say that currently it only works with planar curves I have been looking for methods to find the centroid of non planar curves or surfaces any ideas are welcome)
-Then you have to specify an amount of height for the cushions , and the script will workout the rest.

If you want to try it out go to the bottom of the post and register to download the file.

About ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Flouro Ethylene)
ETFE foil roofs can be supplied as a single layer membrane supported by a cable net system but generally consist of a series of pneumatic cushions made up of between 2 and 5 layers of a modified copolymer called Ethylene Tetra Flouro Ethylene.
The cushions are kept continually inflated by a small inflation unit which maintains the pressure approx. 220 Pa and gives the foil a structural stability and the roof some insulation properties.

While a single ply ETFE membrane has a U value of 5.6 w/m²°K, a standard three layer cushion has a U value of 1.96 w/m²°K – a better insulation value than triple glazing when used horizontally (glazing manufacturers figures are for vertical glazing which considerably enhances the figures). The insulative qualities of ETFE cushions can also be improved by the addition of more layers of foil which can be treated with specialist coatings to enhance the thermal properties.

ETFE Foil is a very transparent material and transmits light across the entire visible light region (380 – 780 nm) totalling approximately 94-97% of total light. Transmission across the ultraviolet range (320- 380nm) is also very good (approx 83-88%) and therefore allows plants and vegetation underneath to thrive.

As described above, the base material of the cushions is very transparent, the ETFE Foil can be treated in a number of different ways to manipulate its light transmission properties.These include:

– Printing: Also known as fritting, the surface of the foil is covered with a variety of patterns to reduce solar gain while retaining translucency. By varying the percentage of coverage and density of the ink, the energy transmission can be altered. Alternatively, the foil can be over printed with a number of treatments to affect transmission.

– Tinting: A wide variety of coloured foils are also available, although less readily than the standard clear foil. Coloured foils can be used alongside clear foil to incorporate branding and large scale imagery.

– Surface treatments: Surface treatments undertaken during the manufacturing process can vary the properties of the fabric and allow us to manipulate light transmission. These treatments render the foil matt in appearance and therefore provides an excellent surface for projecting
light shows and images onto.

– Radiation: The foil can also be conditioned with a range of radiation treatments which can reduce the levels of IR and UV rays transmitting through the skin.

ETFE cushion systems are continually inflated by air inflation units located close to the cushions. As the cushions only need to maintain pressure and not generate air flow, the energy consumption used by these units is minimal. An entire roof is generally powered by 2 or more fans powered by electric motors within each inflation unit.
A typical air inflation unit measures 1.2m x 1.2m x 0.9m and is located nearby to the ETFE cushion system, internally or externally

If an ETFE Foil cushion becomes damaged, the individual cushion can be easily removed and replaced with minimal disruption. Minor repairs can be made to the cushion without removing it from the main structure.

ETFE can be recycled with ease, but due to its properties (does not degrade under UV light, sunlight, weather, pollution) it has a very long life which is estimated between 50-100years, making the need for recycling small. The aluminium frames do require a high level of energy for production, but they also have a long life and are readably recycled when they reach there end of life.
(information via Architen)

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File Name :PneumaticCalddingTool.rvb

  • Amy McNamara

    I’m a grad student and would like to use this pneumatic tool for my current project.

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Amy that is great feel free to use it , let me know if you have any questions about it , looking forward to see your results =)

  • hope a useful link:
    when i see this i think to your work …. thus i share it here!


  • Rodrigo

    Hi Andrea very interesting project thanks a lot for sharing.

  • William Duffy

    Will it work on curved surfaces? I would like to try your script. Could you please email a link?

  • Rodrigo

    Hi William , currently the script onli works with planar closed curves, I´m looking for rhinoscript methods to find the centroid of curved surfaces once I figure it out I´ll post it here, you can downlad the current version by suscribing to have acces to the dowlnload files.

  • Matt Harrison

    Hey, Great script! Just what I’ve been looking for. Having trouble moving beyond geometries other than the Voronoi though. I tried to use the script here :http://www.supermanoeuvre.com/blog/?p=223 to generate hexagons on a surface and then apply the script but I always get “type mismatch in parameter. Array needed” error. Any ideas?

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Matt , i have checked the script you are using to generate the hexagonal panels , and the problem is that the script only works with planar curves, many people is having the same trouble you are commenting I´ll take a look at the code over the weekend to find a way to generate the cushion from non planar curves.

  • Matt Harrison

    Hey, Yeah I noticed some of the other comments after posting and it was too late. Good work though. I wish I knew enough Rhinoscript to have a go myself. Not sure where to start though really. I’ll keep checking back here though, it’s a good site.

  • Matt Harrison

    Oh also, I meant to ask, how did you get the thickness to show up for supporting structure for the panels in the renders above and the cool colour gradients? I’m used to MAX and I couldn’t find a shell in rhino.

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Matt, starting with Rhinoscript can be a little confusing at the begining but with practice it becomes more easier, about the questions you asked my I use two other rhinoscripts one that creates a pipes with the curves array and for the color gradient I made a rhinoscript that changes the materiral RGB values depending on the distance from each panel to a point, let me look for them and I´ll send them to your mail.

  • Mehrnoosh

    well we as second year student of architecture are supposed to design a portable structure! and i found this ETFE so interesting for the portable designs due to its great advantages..the only problem is that it releases Hydrofluoric acid when it’s burnt. so does anyone know how is it possible to make it fire protected?

  • Rodrigo

    Hi, I found this article there is a part that talks about the issues the had with fire security for the Beijing WaterCube the mention the use of a protection paint.

  • Mehrnoosh

    thx alot;)

  • mariana

    can i have your script, please? i needit for my project.. thanxx 🙂

  • Rodrigo

    Yes you can , what is your project about ? send me your e mail or you can suscribe at the botton and download it

  • ati

    hi. I’m an architect student. I’m working on project about designing of backpack room that stick to a tower. we have to use lightweight material for it. I want to know , can pneumatic panels fold or not??? Because we have to use structure that can be move ,fold and remove easily . Thx for your help.