The idea for the project began in the wake of a complex lighting structure that featured high-tension cables held together with 1,000 custom-designed steel nodes. Project lead Salomé Galjaard suggested they try to redesign the nodes using 3-D printing technology. In partnership with 3D Systems, Arup used 3-D printers capable of fusing powdered steel to replace the clunky, welded assemblage of plates that made up the original design. The result is a streamlined part that is 15 percent lighter than its conventionally fabricated forebear, but 1,000 times cooler-looking.
The benefits of using custom fabricated nodes goes far beyond aesthetics. The EOS 3-D printer uses a specially formulated type of steel that is four times stronger than the stainless plates and allows for smaller flanges which further reduce the weight of the part. Galjaard is even more excited by the ability to turn complex assemblies into a single part which reduces the time required for assembly and improves the efficiency of construction, a huge benefit in environments where time equals money.