This fiber technology could revolutionize building construction
August 1, 2023 | By Gerald Ondrey
With the Texoversum (photo), Reutlingen University (Germany; www.reutlingen-university.de) has put into operation a training and innovation center for the textile industry that is unique in Europe. The almost 2,000-m2 textile-like façade of the new building combines the innovative power of this industry with the 160-year tradition of Reutlingen as a textile location. The highlight: The components were wound from fibers that are fixed with a special plastic resin developed by Covestro AG (Leverkusen, Germany; www.covestro.com).
The façade of the Texoversum is just one example of a new technology that could completely revolutionize the construction industry. The sophisticated structure was designed on the computer and is based on carbon fibers wound by robots. Similar to networks in nature, for example in spider webs, beetle wings or palm leaves, the fiber structures are also very lightweight, but at the same time highly resilient, and require very little material. This not only saves resources, but also facilitates transport and assembly of the components.
The co-inventor of the innovative technology is architecture professor Moritz Dörstelmann, whose company, FibR GmbH (Kernen, Germany; www.fibr.tech), also realized the façade of the Texoversum. “In contrast to conventional steel and concrete structures, we are able to get by with a minimum of material, because the robots only process as many fibers as are needed for the strength of the respective structure,” he explains. “As a result, we also save large amounts of CO2 emissions.” Dörstelmann also sees advantageous applications for the technology in roof structures, supports and, not least, interior fittings.
The necessary strength and durability of the composite is provided by Covestro’s aliphatic polyurethane resin system Desmocomp, in which the fibers are embedded as if in a matrix. “The resin is highly resistant to weathering and the sun’s high-energy ultraviolet (UV) radiation, making it very suitable for outdoor applications,” explains Pejman Norastehfar, architect and specialist for construction applications in Covestro’s Coatings and Adhesives segment. “Other plus points in the construction sector are its excellent chemical and flame resistance.”
The building provides approximately 3,000 m2 of space for workshops, laboratories, a textile collection, think tank space and classrooms. The costs for the construction of the Texoversum (€18.5 million) were borne by the employers’ association Südwesttextil, whose members include FibR.