Cocoon: 3D Printed Clay Formwork for Concrete Casting

MacKenzie Bruce, Gabrielle Clune, Ruxin Xie, Salma Mozaffari, Arash Adel

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Concrete, a material widely used in the construction industry today for its low cost and considerable strength as a composite building material, allows designers to work with nearly any form imaginable if the technology to build the formwork is possible. By combining two historic and widely used materials, clay and concrete, our proposed novel process, Cocoon integrates robotic clay three-dimensional (3D) printing as the primary formwork and incrementally casting concrete into this formwork to fabricate nonstandard concrete elements. The incremental casting and printing process anchors the concrete and clay together, creating a symbiotic and harmonious relationship. The concrete's fluidity takes shape from the 3D printed clay formwork, allowing the clay to gain structure from the concrete as it cures. As the clay loses moisture, the formwork begins to shrink, crack, and reveal the concrete below. This self-demolding process produces easily removable formwork that can then be recycled by adding water to rehydrate the clay creating a nearly zero-waste formwork. This technique outlines multiple novel design features for complex concrete structures, including extended height limit, integrated void space design, tolerable overhang, and practical solutions for clay deformation caused by the physical stress during the casting process. The novelty of the process created by 3D printing clay formwork using an industrial robotic arm allows for rapid and scalable production of nearly zero-waste customizable formwork. More significant research implications can impact the construction industry, integrating more sustainable ways to build, enabled by digital fabrication technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event2021 Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture Annual Conference, ACADIA 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Nov 3 2021Nov 6 2021


Conference2021 Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture Annual Conference, ACADIA 2021
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Software


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