3D2Real by ILEK students



Five architecture students of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart have created an exhibition stand with an irregular honeycomb MDF structure.


The stand was created to display the work of five young designers at design fair Blickfang in Stuttgart in March.


Each cell of the structure is uniquely angled to focus the gaze of people standing outside the wall onto the individual objects within.


"Each element of the structure is unique, generated by algorithms based on the location of the wall and the locations of the items exhibited," say the designers.


The screens are made up of 2,142 pieces joined by 1,376 unique pairs of connecting components.


These components are made of CNC-cut pieces of 3mm and 10mm MDF, slotted together without adhesive.


The team included Benjamin Engelhardt, Fred Ernst, Kadri Kaldam, Sebastian Lippert and Christian Seelbach.


More information on the project blog.


Photos by Stefan Neuhäuser.


Here's some more information from the students:


Digital Design and Production in Architecture

To catch the eye, steer the gaze, and focus attention. That is the idea behind this exhibition stand, designed and built by five architecture students at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) under the supervision of Professor Werner Sobek at the University of Stuttgart.

The system serves as a filter between observer and object. The planar elements of the honeycomb-like structure are oriented at specific angles so that only a portion of the area behind the wall is revealed to the viewer. From the outside, only objects that lie within these defined focal points can be seen. Each of the items on display receives its own focal point, according to its size and location. Inside the wall the opposite effect is achieved – the view to the outside from the focal points is completely unobstructed, allowing a panoramic perspective as the honeycomb elements are aligned perpendicular to the observer’s eye.


Each element of the structure is unique, generated by algorithms based on the location of the wall and the locations of the items exhibited. Once generated, the element shapes were transferred directly to a CNC mill for fabrication. This process was performed using a custom-programmed plug-in for a 3D design software package. The honeycomb elements and their connectors were first generated in three-dimensional space. Two-dimensional drawings of the elements were then produced, and using CAM (computer aided manufacturing) software, translated into machine code for the milling process. Labeling the individual pieces was crucial, as the structure comprises 2142 different planar honeycomb elements connected by 1376 unique pairs of joint elements. To maintain order within the system, the honeycomb elements were numbered sequentially, while the connectors were labeled according to the elements they were joining.


Fabrication was completed in 13 days, using 204 m_ of 3 mm-thick and 46 m_ of 10 mm-thick MDF (medium density fibreboard). Both cutting and labeling was done using the CNC mill. Waste material was minimized to less then 30% through the use of so-called nesting software. The mill was in operation for a total of 80 hours, with the cutting head traveling a total distance of 2,8 km. Notably, the connectors relied solely on friction without the use of any adhesive.

The system in its current stage of development was first used at Blickfang 2009 (Design Fair for Furniture, Fashion and Jewellery in Stuttgart). Its purpose was to draw attention to objects by five young designers presented by Magazin and Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin. Further development of the concept is underway involving the design of a 3D space structure to be used as a pavilion.

Portions of the wall will be part of an upcoming exhibit on Werner Sobek and the ILEK in Vienna, starting in July. Another portion is currently on display at the Magazine Shop in Stuttgart.


Benjamin Engelhardt, Fred Ernst, Kadri Kaldam, Sebastian Lippert, Christian Seelbach

ILEK – Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design, University of Stuttgart
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Werner Sobek
Dipl.-Des. Elias Knubben, Dipl.-Ing. Fritz Mielert, B.Sc., M.Eng. Stefan Neuhäuser, Dipl.-Ing. Matthias Rippmann

Posted on Wednesday May 20th 2009 at 3:26 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Stijn

    Looks GREAT!

    To bad in a real honeycomb the cells are sized hexagon (6sides), this ones are pentagon(5sides)

    they should make a new one ; )

  • Minimalist

    Beautiful. Organic geometry with interseting visual effects. I can see this being a hit as part of tradshow booth architecture.

  • Amazing the sculture they could creat using just two componentes together!!!.

  • lmnop

    im not gonna lie…it’s sexy and cool. however, the base component is still a bit clumsy. i want to see this technique used for domes, not just free-standing walls. keep at it! B-)

  • nothingbutcode

    i agree, the base is clumsy.

    makes me wonder why there is a base at all! the structure is so great on its own.

  • walter w.

    sorry, bees do it better.

  • gx

    what the, another imitation, how can ppl nowadays take ppls design and say its theirs when they just imitate? this irregular honeycomb structure has be fabricated and designed at the AA school of architecture a long time ago.

  • so

    If you would know Andrew Kudless design a little better you could see that the concept (focus points for exhibition objects) and execution are completly different from this one. Like with the whole robot wall discussion about ETH & GSD these comments that just state it looks like this or that are so anoying.

  • tulpenstrasse 36

    no sorry its def. no imitation…of course anyone somwhere did smth similar to this this but thats architecture!!!the pattern is called a cairo tiling and its no honycomb – so bees wil not be able to make it better… so i think these guys did a great job………..

  • ilek students

    @chris: the package was rhino/vbs/madcam – pictures of the production & the process are available at http://www.3d2real.de!

  • hugen

    @Stijn: I don’t think we need any more honeycomb structures in architecture

    Modeller: Rhino
    Scripting: Monkey / VBS
    CAM: MadCAM
    Mill: BZT

    not just walls; the first ideas looked like spheres and cubes: http://3d2real.de/?p=121

  • Óscar

    As chris I would like to know plugins capable of this kind of work. I´m researching for my final project of architecture career. Thanks

  • nik

    pity, that the structure is not self – supporting without basment slabs….
    Greets to Mr. lippert ;)

  • jh

    `’..this irregular honeycomb structure has be fabricated and designed at the AA school of architecture a long time ago…’

    i would say structures like this have been designed and fabricated by nature some million years ago already. u really want to say, that (honeycomb) structures have been invented by some kids at the AA or any other school? u must be joking.

  • that is true, Bees are bees, we can´t never compair the amazing power of Nature with our hands capacity, the nature creat us …. but anyway Nature is one of the most important inspiration for us as designer or whatever we do.

  • AAB

    Instead of congratulating the students at the University of Stuttgart for having the passion, energy and guts for having a go you always get the clowns who mouth off “it’s been done before”. Who gives a flying f*** that is has been done before or who done it before or where it was done before blah @!#%ing blah. When has ‘he/she did it first and you are not allowed to participate” ever gotten in the way of progress or someone else doing what some else has done already and maybe, just maybe, doing it that little bit better. At least they had a go and even if it lead to nothing innovative they at leas had a go. What the @!#% have you done apart from pointing out the obvious and being smug about it?

  • I agree, the base is quite strange.

  • easyjig

    Lola look lets do smthing like this

  • svelte

    I think it is great, yes of course there is similar work out there some done at SIAL in melbourne and also a firm called BKK did similar work, but the unique adds nothing to architecture. I think the students were quite methodical in their process to arrive at the final installation. Good work to you all. I also think that the base is actually good. I quite like how the texture of the honeycomb is broken apart by the smooth surface of the base.

  • yrag

    I find them very beautiful.

    To my sensibilities they make either marvelous sculptures, room dividers or screens. I hope they continue to persure the idea.

    “I don’t think we need any more honeycomb structures in architecture”. @hugen What on earth does a statement like this even mean?

    “sorry, bees do it better.”
    @ walter w. —Do what Walter, use their intellect and aesthetics to design and create? What are some examples of your entirely original creative pieces that we may admire? Would we say WOW— nobody creates as well as walter w.?

    I’m betting—no.

  • Katsudon

    Aaaah thanks AAB! :-)
    Awesome work!
    By the way, for the basement, isn’t that possible to use crossed steel wires through the structure’s base to keep it tensed?

  • urbanwired


  • Scott

    I kind of like the way they meet the ground.

    Thanks for sharing the link to 3d2real. Any future plans?

  • gabs

    What I’m not so sure of is the cost-benefit worth of it. I’m not convinced that regular, right-angled shelves are no better. As lmnop said, I would like to see an innovative building technique out of software algorithm research…

  • Helen

    I like the structure, I would use it as a room divider in an office space,
    but I feel sorry for the cleaning lady…
    The first thought that passt my mind was: It will gather so much dust… BUT still, as a concept, it is good looking as is.

  • saur

    Ever heard of the “cairo tiling” ?

    showing off with something so basic not even makes me laugh..