Case Study: Casting for the Cloud Cities Barcelona

Date: June 6, 2023

Dean Group was recently tasked to create integral components for an innovative architectural design, the Cloud Cities Barcelona.

The team was approached with a unique challenge to create a significant amount of high-quality metal nodes for an intricate installation that would need to withstand its own stresses and additional ones from visitors climbing the panels. The team had to design, test, cast and machine high-quality nodes that would connect the cables to the panels while meeting the fixed installation deadline.

Read our case study to discover Dean Group’s contribution to this innovative architectural installation and the challenges of bringing these designs to life.

Who Is Stage One UK?

Stage One is a creative manufacturing and engineering company that specialises in delivering high-end projects for the creative industries. They have a multidisciplinary in-house team proficient in high-end paint finishes, precision metalwork, and intricate joinery. Their work ranges from ceremonies and live events to entertainment and architecture, creating moments that people remember forever.

The Cloud Cities Barcelona Project

The realisation of Tomás Saraceno’s vision, the Cloud Cities Barcelona installation is a permanent free-standing artwork that appears to float effortlessly at the top of Mirador Torre Glòries, providing visitors with 360° cityscape views of Barcelona. The design called for a complex web of polycarbonate panels and wire connections, requiring an in-depth collaboration between designers and engineers. Over 200 visitors per day enjoy the finished construction, which consists of the following:

  • 7,000 meters of wire rope
  • 10,000 lengths of cabling
  • 1,200 polycarbonate panels around a unique suspension access bridge
  • And 6,000 node connectors were investment cast by our experts at Dean Group.

The intricate nature of this project pushed creativity and engineering to new heights. The feasibility of the design was extensively tested to ensure the safety of visitors both observing and interacting with it. This stunning installation art allows people to sit 25 metres off the ground and observe the surrounding city. But before its completion, the architect needed to ensure the previously stated components were of the highest quality and met the required safety standards.

cloud city Barcelona

Dean Group’s Involvement: Nodes

cloud city Barcelona

Dean Group played a crucial role in the creation of the nodes for the project. Stage One UK approached us to manufacture the nodes where the cables would be attached, a vital component that demanded strict adherence to specifications. Our client-focused approach allowed us to work closely with Studio One UK and ensure that each process stage was approved.

Initial Node Creation

The initial challenge was to develop a single cast piece that would act as the foundation of additional designs later. Our engineers were tasked with creating a single cast node based on the initial drawing provided by Stage One UK. To meet the short time constraints of the project, we used our 3D printing for casting to quickly create wax versions of the required design. These designs were assessed and reviewed, with new, improved designs following shortly as part of our rapid casting prototyping service. As a result, we successfully manufactured and designed the single-cast node, meeting the project's requirements and time constraints.

cloud cities BarcelonaNode Variations

Once the first node design was approved, our team created twelve variations to be cast in stainless steel without sacrificing the pieces' integrity. Our simulation software accurately predicted the performance of these designs when subjected to the planned stresses, such as the overall installation weight and additional stresses from visitors climbing in it. Variations that failed these tests were eliminated until there was only a range of successful options for Studio One.

Investment Casting Manufacturing

The project's biggest challenge was the time constraint, as the customer needed these nodes in different sizes and variants and needed them quickly. We used our tried and true manufacturing process, Investment Casting.

We use 3D wax printing technology to create wax patterns, eliminating the need for conventional tooling in the early sampling stages. This technology drastically reduces lead times from months to weeks, making the investment casting process more cost-effective and flexible.

Our investment casting process involves many steps, including fusing and cleaning, mould creation, dewaxing and wax recycling, and liquid metal pouring. Each step is critical to the casting process's success and the final product's quality. In addition, we conduct additional checks and treatments, such as machining, heat treatment, anodising, destructive and non-destructive testing, and painting, to ensure that the final product meets the required specifications.

Machining for Installation

In addition to creating the nodes, Dean Group was also responsible for conducting the machining needed to connect the panels and wires to the nodes. This involved meeting exact specifications to ensure the safety of the visitors who would see and climb on it.

Over ten-thousand individual machining operations were conducted, each with its own requirements to suit its place in the installation. Our expertise and attention to detail ensured that the installation was visually stunning and safe for visitors for the lifecycle of the architectural installation.

cloud cities Barcelona

Positive Results From Dean Group

Our involvement in the project was one of many steps that were crucial to its overall success.

  • Client-focused approach
  • 3D wax printing service
  • Prototyping and simulation testing
  • Stainless steel casting and machining

These processes and methods we have perfected over our 50 years in metal casting enable our teams to create the required twelve variations of the nodes while meeting the project's short time constraints related to its installation. We are proud to have been a part of such a unique and challenging project and look forward to taking on similar projects in the future.

Our investment casting services are covered under ISO 9001 and our BSI (the British Standards Institution) accreditation, ensuring that our high standards are maintained during commissioned castings. We take pride in our innovative methods, which allow us to produce complex parts with high accuracy and detail.

Contact us to learn more about our investment casting services and how we can help you with your next application, or read our case studies to learn about more of our successful projects.

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