1st Place: Tubular Knitting

Cornell University student Vela Wang stands amid the final prototype of structural columns made from knitted fiberglass. Photo Credit: Cornell University, Robotics Construction Laboratory

First prize went to “Tubular Knitting” by Cornell University students Jingjing Liu, William Qian, Xiaohang “Gloria” Yan, Jinxin Yang and Yuheng “Amber” Zhu, who created a porous, lightweight structural column out of knitted fiberglass.

The team chose to knit the fiberglass after experimenting with other techniques. “With knitting, you can control the mesh size and be more precise in fabrication,” explains Sasa Zivkovic, one of the team’s advisors, assistant professor in Cornell’s Department of Architecture and director of the Robotic Construction Laboratory. “They started with something very simple, for example wrapping the fiberglass around an object, and then graduated to knitting, which opened up amazing possibilities.”

The team used hand-cranked knitting ring “machines” to knit multiple roving strands into two large, stretchable, sock-like tubes, which were stitched together into two branches. The structure was then hung from a frame, inflated with different-sized balloons and hand-coated with non-styrenated resin and cured for a day. The result is a porous, transparent structural column that is lightweight and highly portable. The team believes the technique has the potential to fabricate lightweight, customized components that can be flat-packed, transported and quickly assembled on-site to create permanent structural supports.

“What’s so exciting,” Zivkovic says, “is that different knit patterns could potentially correlate with different structural requirements throughout the structure, creating an intelligent structure.”