Insert for Insulating Glass Units

Optimal Daylight Design for Buildings with OKAfree

Architecture is all about creativity and freedom of design. Hence it is not surprising that Additive Manufacturing (AM) has made an impactful entrance into the building design and construction industry, opening up new worlds of possibility for architects, designers, and engineers.

Insulating Glass Units

Project Breakdown


Insert for Insulating Glass Units

Why Forward AM?
Material development | Printing Know-How | Production of inserts

The result
Integrated functional design solution for daylight management, combined with individual design freedom

Benefits of AM in architecture and construction

AM has numerous fields of application in architecture, from constructing concept models, through interior design, to building entire structures. Combining computational design with Additive Manufacturing (AM) unleashes the full potential of digital manufacturing and maximizes effectiveness in the design and build process. Structures that until now were considered too complex to build are now designable and adaptable realities.

Above all, AM enables architects to offer their clients customized designs and unique pieces. AM provides architects, designers with a breathtakingly powerful tool, letting them visualize and modify a 3D concept model quickly and cost-effectively, saving precious time to dedicate to making their inspiring visions a reality.

Challenge: Guiding natural daylight in buildings

While it is quite common to apply AM in the production of load-bearing components made of titanium, ceramics or fiber-reinforced plastics, the possibilities of AM with clay, concrete and glass are less developed and still infrequently applied. For architects, finding ways of integrating natural daylight in buildings is often challenging – most rely on horizontal blinds. Integrating these elements usually causes abrupt changes in visual perspectives and gives designs a rather technical, functional aesthetic. What’s more, current approaches to harnessing daylight often constrict architectural design possibilities, as so far there has been no solution that allows the customization of every building. Large-format 3D printers with a load volume of 1m3 are able now to print AM glass inserts to serve this application field.

Insulating Glass Units
The printing process of the glass insert

Solution: Multifunctional glass insert

Insulating Glass Units
Effective daylight usage combined with design freedom (source: Forward AM).

Together with OKALUX, a leading supplier of design and functional insulating glass for façades and interiors, Forward AM developed a solution based on 3D printed glass inserts: “OKAFree”. It provides highly advanced, multifunctional façade solutions consisting of insulating glass panes. These shade interiors from the sun and ensure privacy, while guiding and dispersing natural light – all combined in one single design. The environmental influences and mechanical stresses on 3D printed inserts between hermetically sealed glass panes are almost zero, making such applications risk-free provided the right material is used. To achieve the best result possible, Forward AM developed a material specifically for the glass inserts. With a long track record in material development, Forward AM tailor-made a material based on
Ultrafuse® – ensuring both functionality and aesthetics.

The design of the insert is created completely digitally and parametrically, allowing the architect to tailor the glass insert to each single building and even for each single glass pane. It opens up previously impossible design options – for example, any natural organic design can now be 3D scanned, digitalized, processed and printed in any size. This integrated solution enables architects to create technical functions suited to each individual building, overcoming previous restraints. The optimal use of daylight is now possible, which is key to low energy consumption as well as high user comfort and individual wellbeing. What’s more, by applying metallic PVD coatings from Forward AM, the reflection of each pane can be adapted individually.

Insulating Glass Units
Example how OKAfreeD can provide different privacy levels along a single floor facade (source: Forward AM).

“For us, material, application and process always go hand-in hand. Therefore, we developed not only the material but chose the right printing technology and calibrated the printing parameters for this new and unique application. To ensure the quality and repeatability of the product we take care of the production of the inserts together with our partner Sculpteo” states Jörg Petri, Business Development Manager at Forward AM. 

In short, this solution combines design, architecture and functionality in a completely new way – a true game-changer for glass façade applications and interior division walls in offices and private homes, malls and museums, airports and places of worship.

Result: Glass façade as a single integrated functional design solution

This solution proves that for architecture and design in the construction industry, AM enables full customization combined with advanced functionalities that optimize the use of natural light and energy efficiency, while providing privacy control, light guidance and innovative sun shading.

Furthermore, the unique, design-specific illumination of building interiors is possible in an easy visually appealing way.

“OKAfree enables the design for a façade and therefore for the whole building more than ever. Beyond that, due to the depth effect of OKAfree, an additional function like privacy or daylighting can be integrated according to individual requests. From now on, it is possible to design façades free with almost no restrictions at all. Hence, façades will be boundless multifaceted and so each façade appears unique. That is why OKAfree holds a great opportunity for designers and architects.”

Dr.-Ing. Johannes Franz, R&D Department, OKALUX Glastechnik GmbH

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