If computer-based design has set architects free to dream, composites have proved to be an adept partner in the process of realizing those dreams in the real world. Specifically, the digital fabrication path from computer 3-D model to CNC-milled molds to finished composite building elements has enabled the creation of unique buildings featuring shapes and surfaces that have never existed before. The ability to make unprecedented shapes and irregular shapes – in essence, one-offs – in an affordable process has been the role of composites in a number of high-profile projects.
However, composites are also the stuff of flat surfaces and facades. The German company Lamilux, for example, makes flat glass-fiber composite panels for a variety of industries and applications, including clean-room (interior) panels) and rainscreen façade (exterior) panels. Lamilux facades panels are available in eleven standard colors – opaque white and 10 translucent colors – as well as custom colors.
Lamilux panels are 5mm thick, consisting of 4.7mm of glass fiber composite and a 0.3mm layer of weather-resistant gelcoat and protective film. They are produced in a continuous lamination process, and offered in sizes up to 2.5m x 4m (8-ft x 13-ft). Although they can make custom sizes, Lamilux’s Sascha Oswald says they mostly sell full-size panels, which are then cut to size by their customers. They recommend water-jet cutting.
Oswald also points out that they make panels that can be used in a rainscreen system, but they do not makes the system – i.e. no framing or fastening hardware. However, they do provide guidelines for mounting to a structural frame.
The product has been fire-tested to German DIN 4102 standard and received a rating of B2, which means flammable (as opposed to either “non-combustible” or “highly flammable”). Lamilux would like to sell facade panels in the US, and will do necessary fire-testing if there is demand.
However, they have been used on numerous buildings in Europe, both for opaque and translucent effects. One of these projects is at the prestigious Fraunhofer Institute, the pride of the German scientific community. In some of the applications, the panels are backlit at night, with very impressive effects.
All images courtesy of Lamilux.