At OlifeEnergy, we pay a lot of attention to the design of our charging stations. We are proud of their graceful and elegant appearance. Yet we are open to new ideas and alternative approaches. That’s why we were delighted to receive an offer of cooperation from Fabrilium, a company dedicated to the application of 3D printing technology to concrete products. We supplied the technology, while Fabrilium created a completely new look for our chargers, which you can see in the pictures. And thanks to the variability of 3D printing, the customer can have an individual look created directly to order.
To find out more about what was behind the birth of this project as well as the Fabrilium company itself, we talked to one of the founders of the company, architect Ing. Michal Kovařík.
Before we discuss the 3D printed charging stations themselves, let’s introduce your company. What is 3D concrete printing and what are the benefits for users?
Concrete 3D printing is a very progressive technology, which allows the production of prefabricated parts and entire building sections of very complex shapes, designed on a computer. It is basically a robot-controlled application of a layer of special fine-grained concrete, allowing to convert a virtual 3D model into a physical object. Compared to conventional production technologies, this eliminates the need for moulds, which greatly simplifies and speeds up production, especially for low-volume series of unique pieces. Therefore, this technology combines the precision and efficiency of machine production with the individual approach of traditional craftsmanship and is by its nature ideal for the production of atypical customized products in the construction and industrial design sectors.
What are the most typical Fabrilium products? Do you focus more on custom manufacturing or are mass-produced products based on an existing design more important to you?
Our product portfolio is broad, we supply garden products such as planters and flower containers, furniture for outdoor patios and interiors, cladding panels and advertising elements such as logos. Our products find their place in family homes, restaurants, offices or hotels. On our website we offer products in design ranges, however, the main focus of our services is custom manufacturing.
What gave you the idea of 3D printing concrete products? How did it start and how long have you actually been in this business?
What led me to 3D printing was my many years of experience as an architect and the possibilities of parametric design, which I first discovered during a four-year work stay in Beijing. This innovative design method allows for the production of sophisticated, organically shaped objects that are difficult to realize with conventional technologies and thus require robotic manufacturing equipment. We started our first experiments in 2015 following reports of 3D printed buildings in China. Since then, through very intensive research and development in technology, material and design, we have accumulated a very unique know-how.
Obviously, you have a lot of experience with concrete and 3D, what makes concrete 3D printing technology specific?
Since its inception in 1986, 3D printing has penetrated into a wide range of industries and uses a wide range of materials, in the case of concrete, even after all these years, I remain fascinated by the wide possibilities of shaping and surface textures, along with the possibility of lightweighting concrete elements, which is in great contrast to the common idea of concrete as a heavy material bound by rectangular forms. Our philosophy at Fabrilio is to explore the possibilities of concrete’s shape and design and to push the boundaries of its use into new areas.
Is this how you came up with the idea of using 3D printing for charging station stands?
In the context of the much-discussed recent rise of electric mobility in the media, I was wondering what our historic city centres might look like with charging stations. Certainly, not only in Prague’s historical preservation area, it will be a challenge to incorporate this modern infrastructure in line with the city’s heritage character. Using the example of the world-famous cubist street furniture that enriched Prague’s historic centre with modern design in the 1920s, I realised that 3D printing in conjunction with concrete could be the solution. This material is time-tested for outdoor use, resistant to weathering and mechanical damage, and unlike plastic, for example, it ages with dignity. Combined with elegant shapes and minimalist accessories, it could thus be a worthy solution for charging electric vehicles not only in conservation areas but also in the wider inner city areas of our cities.
Why did you choose OlifeEnergy’s technology?
When choosing a partner, two criteria were important to me, expertise and receptiveness to innovation. OlifeEnergy has been known to me for some time as an established pioneer of electromobility in the Czech Republic and I also know that it is open to new ideas, so it was an obvious choice for me.
Aren’t concrete stations too heavy? Isn’t it a problem to put them in place?
The design of our concrete chassis is tailored so that its weight allows for comfortable handling by two workers. The anchoring system and the station equipment are then designed to facilitate simple and quick installation and are thus fully compatible with OlifeEnergy’s established charging station systems.
Do you have any further plans for the charging stations?
We would like to offer municipalities, companies and private individuals in the Czech Republic the possibility of delivering customized stations with the possibility of designing an original chassis shape, reflecting the character of a given location and the unique needs of the customer. In the next step, we would like to offer this solution to partners abroad in cooperation with OlifeEnergy.
Can the customer choose what their charging station looks like? Change the shape, for example? Change the colour of the metal part?
Yes, the choice of shape and colour and surface texture is what makes our charging stations unique. We are the ideal choice for those who are not satisfied with the standardized design of mass-produced charging stations and want to differentiate themselves with an original customized design.