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Escofet: 3D printing the city skin

Barcelona-based Escofet transforms cities and enhances the use of public space through the design of elements such as lighting, pavements, and building structures. 3D printing is proving to be extremely useful for their iterative design process, and has been vital for the creation of their latest piece: the Trébol (Clover) tile.

Barcelona, January 14th 2020-. For more than a century, Barcelona-based Escofet has been an international reference in landscape architecture thanks to its dominance over concrete and its ability to transform it into the true skin of the city.
With works as relevant as the Palau Sant Jordi or the Olympic Ring and collaborations with renowned architects as Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, their designs have been shaping Barcelona’s urban landscape since 1886, and have been honored with awards as prestigious as the Spanish National Design Award or the Golden Delta from the FAD Industrial Design Association.

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One of Escofet’s most celebrated projects, the Gardunya square in Barcelona.

The evolution of the company has naturally led them into researching and working with new technologies and manufacturing practices, which would allow them to take their vision even further. That’s why, in order to achieve new design possibilities, they started incorporating 3D printing into their processes for prototyping and functional validation.

This technology has proved to be particularly vital when developing their latest masterpiece: the Trébol (Clover) tile. Inspired by nature, this concrete brick is not only innovative and decorative, but has been created to provide the perfect surface for pedestrian use, counting on excellent non-slip conditions, as well as a comfortable footprint.

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A Trébol tile fabricated in concrete.

The iterative design process of this piece relied heavily on 3D printing: using their BCN3D Sigmax 3D printer, several prototypes were fabricated “to validate aspects such as the dimensions, thicknesses and measurements of the reliefs”, explains Gerard Arqué, Product Design Manager at Escofet. This is a crucial part of the part validation process, since the tiles cannot only look good: they must be functional. In the words of Arqué, the main benefit of counting on 3D printed tiles is then that they “work as prototypes, from which we can draw decisive conclusions about the design”.

Escofet BCN3D Sigmax 3D printing design prototyping architecture
3D printing multiple prototypes allowed Escofet to iterate the Trébol design as many times as necessary.

However, he adds, that’s not all. The role of tangible models on landscape architecture is key, since they increase the three-dimensional understanding and allow for the designs to be communicated in the context of the physical world. 3D printing allows to fabricate quickly and at a low cost as many models as necessary, which can be used by the commercial team to better transmit the design’s properties.

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The final Trébol design, 3D printed.

These are just the early stages of Escofet’s work with 3D printing, but the proficient results achieved on the Trébol tile project have shown to their Product Design team that, at their company, this new technology has definitely come to stay.

Escofet BCN3D 3D printing design prototyping urban architecture city landscape
The final look of the Trébol concrete tiles, combined to create the pavement of a street.