The Seattle skyline is in the midst of a transformation, preparing to welcome the iconic new Rainier Square Tower, which will become the city’s second-tallest building, in 2020. Rainier Square Tower will be a 58-story tower with a unique, sloping appearance. The flaring shape of the building creates a distinctive geometric feeling, which is a challenge for Walters & Wolf, the commercial cladding company that won the bid to manufacture the exterior curtain wall that will complete the look and feel of the new structure.
After experimenting with a variety of manufacturing processes and having some vendors say they couldn’t complete the work, Walters & Wolf turned to 3Diligent to manufacture a component for the curtain wall it will assemble and install at Rainier Square Tower.
Walters & Wolf
Founded in 1977 by John Walters and Randy Wolf, Walters & Wolf provides premier glass, façade, and exterior wall-cladding services for building construction. The company handles the design, engineering, fabrication, delivery, and installation of each project in order to ensure that quality is never compromised and every project meets its budget and deadlines. Today, Walters & Wolf wraps distinctive, high-profile projects from eight different facilities, covering markets across the western United States.
Rainier Square Tower
The Rainier Square Tower has a unique design with a wide base and then, beginning at the 4th story, each floor steps back at an angle all the way to the 40th floor. Walters & Wolf is responsible for the design, assembly, and installation of the unitized curtain wall, a nonstructural outer covering of a building, that will accomplish this look and feel.
As one of the Walters & Wolf designers assigned to the project, Jon Ishee collaborated with the architects to take their design concepts and develop them into specialized drawings to help bring their ideas to reality. Jon prides himself on taking a unique approach to working with the architects; thinking outside the box to make the design a reality in an economical fashion.
With a step back on each building floor, the cladding system for each story will have a different angle and require complex geometries to fit together perfectly. Each piece needs to be constructed individually to meet the unique geometry needed for that section of the building. Walters & Wolf determined the best approach would be to create v-shaped nodes that ranged in size from approximately 18” × 7” × 10” to approximately 9” × 7” × 10” that would bring together square-cut parts of the curtain wall.
Working with 3Diligent
Once the design problem was solved, then the challenge became how to make these pieces. Understanding the complexities of the design and the fact that each piece would be unique, Ishee and the team considered a number of manufacturing processes and options before turning to 3Diligent and 3D printing to produce the intricate design of the nodes that would bring the curtain wall to life.
Walters & Wolf’s experience was limited to using an in-house 3D printer in the past for prototyping components. The sheer number of available 3D printing processes was overwhelming, so they began exploring firms in the U.S. and overseas that could advise on the right process and also create the nodes.
Ishee said: “One company said it could complete the task, but when it got down to it, the company determined it could not. Ultimately 3Diligent was the only company that was able to deliver what they said they could with the quality that Walters & Wolf prides itself on delivering to its customers.”
Coming to 3Diligent, the only criteria Walters & Wolf had was they wanted the pieces to be constructed of aluminum. Based on that requirement and the geometries of the nodes, 3Diligent presented two manufacturing processes—investment casting and 3D Printing. 3Diligent was able to provide Walters & Wolf with first articles from the different processes which were assembled into curtain wall units and sent to an independent testing lab in Fresno, California, for performance mock-up testing. Walters & Wolf had to ensure the nodes did not experience any cracking or any kind of failure when installed on the building. While the parts don’t carry a large structural load, the nodes would need to have good adhesion with silicone and be able to remain watertight and airtight.
“It was great that 3Diligent gave us both investment casting and 3D printing options so that we could choose between them,” said Ishee. “We prototyped in both technologies and ultimately picked 3D Printing because of the dimensional accuracy and structural reliability it gave us.”
3Diligent’s Range of Capabilities
3Diligent offers a complete range of additive-manufacturing processes including powder bed fusion, binder jetting, material jetting, vat photopolymerization, extrusion, directed energy deposition, and sheet lamination. 3Diligent also offers a comprehensive range of machining, casting, and injection molding services. These processes are offered across the range of resins, plastics, metals, and composites, and allows 3Diligent to address virtually any project need, from prototype to production.
A Successful Relationship
To complete the Rainier Tower cladding, Ishee worked with 3Diligent to produce 140 unique nodes with varying dimensions. Toward the end of the curtain wall project, geometries changed, and different levels required additional supports or finish work. 3Diligent worked with Ishee and the team to determine the best way to complete the project.
“The 3Diligent team worked with us on design challenges and communicated effectively to sort through any issues that arose,” said Ishee. “We worked with 3Diligent from prototype through production and saw consistent quality and unmatched value. We look forward to working with 3Diligent again in the future.”
NBBJ rendering by Atchain