The Palm Arms

 

Palm trees are angiosperms, which means flowering plants. They are monocots which means their seeds produce a single, leaf-like cotyledon when they sprout. This makes palms closely related to grasses and bamboo.

Palm Tree
Components of Palm Trees
Growth and Decay
Palm Growth and Decay Process
Palm Tree Information
Palm Tree Information

Mimicking the Geometry

This mature palm shows how the pattern originally seen in the young plant, forms a distinct mathematic pattern known as ‘Phyllotaxis’. This is a pattern with reoccurs throughout nature and is based on the Fibonacci sequence. In order to try to understand the use and formation of the palm fibre, the overall formation of the palm stem needed to be mathematically explored.

However, redrawing the cross-section of the base of the palm plants allows a better understanding of the arrangement of the palm plant.

Frond Arrangement
Palm Frond Arrangement

This exercise allows models to be made to recreate the patterns found in palm plants. By engineering plywood components, the basic shape of the palm geometry can be made into a physical model.

Palm Base Model
Re-creating Palm Base

This was pushed further by curving the plywood components to make extruded palm structure models

Palm Structure Model
Extended Palm Structure Model
Palm Structure Model
Three-Dimensional Palm Model

The arrayed components can then be altered so that the base of the models form regular polygon shapes. Doing this allows the potential for the structures to be tesselated. Using different numbers of components mean the structure can then be tested for strength.

Tessellation Models
Tessellation Models

Palm Wine

There are hundreds of used for palm fruits, this the plant producing materials which range from durable, to flexible to edible. One of the more interesting ones if the production of palm wine using the sap from the tree. Within 2 hours of the wine tapping process, the wine may reach up to 4%, by the following day the palm wine will become over fermented. Some prefer to drink the beverage at this point due to the higher alcohol content. The wine immediately begins fermenting, both from natural yeast in the air and from the remnants of wine left in the containers to add flavour. Ogogoro described a ‘local gin’, is a much stronger spirit made from Raffia palm tree sap. After extraction, the sap is boiled to form steam, which is then condensed and collected for consumption. Ogogoro is not synthetic ethanol but it is tapped from a natural source and then distilled.

To understand the fermentation process more clear, the process of fermenting sugar to make wine has been undertaken.

Palm wine tasting
Testing Palm Wine

Alternative Fuel

The distillation of the wine can be used to make bio-ethanol. This production of this fuel can act as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel energy, which is overused and damaging to our environment.

Energy
How Much Energy?

Future Proposal

The developed structure, as well as the production of palm wine and bio-ethanol, can be collaborated to develop a programme, which provides sustainable energy, within a space that is inviting and exciting.

The production of bio-fuel releases a lot of carbon dioxide. In order to ensure the process does not impact the environment, this needs to occur inside a closed system, so the CO2 does not enter the atmosphere. This can be done by using the properties of a Solar Updraft Tower. Carbon dioxide released from the fermentation and distillation processes can be received by palm trees for increased photosynthesis, while the excess oxygen from the trees provides fresh air for visitors.

 

Solar Updraft Tower Implementation
Form 01 – Solar Updraft Tower Implementation

 

The fermentation process can be controlled within an isolated area of the model.

Fermentation Implementation
Form 02 – Fermentation Implementation

 

The Distillation process, which requires a store of water for cooling, can also be conducted in an isolated area of the model, with apparatus incorporated into the structure.

Distillation Implementation
Form 03 – Distillation Implementation

 

The final proposal will be a combination of all three forms

 

Proposal
Proposal

Makerbot, RepRap and Wikinomics

About a week ago, the brooklyn-based company Makerbot Industries, led by its ubiquitous CEO, Bre Pettis, released a 3D printer called the Replicator 2 (image below) at around $2,200 per unit.

While the Rep2 was being developped, I bought the parts of my RepRap Prusa Mendel (image below) for £500 from a company called RepRapPro which was created by the inventor of the RepRap 3D printers, Adrian Bowyer. RepRap is an open-source project, meaning that all the components of the machine are disclosed online. This project is also based on the idea of a “self-replicating” machine. In fact, I could print some of the parts of another machine (the white parts below are printed).

Makerbot was founded by some of RepRap core developers, Zach Smith, Bre Pettis and Adam Mayer with some investment from Adrian Bowyer. In August, Makerbot received around $10M in funding from Angel Investors such as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.

All the previous printers and CNC machines that Makerbot developped were open-source but the Rep2 will not be. Have a look at the post from Bre Pettis regarding this topic, and more specificaly, read the comments after it as well as the post by Josef Prusa, core developper of RepRap. The following reply of Adrian Bowyer to Bre Pettis’ post sums up what he thinks about the replicator: “Ask yourself: which will be the more numerous 3D printer (or laser cutter): one that can self-replicate, or one that has to be made in a conventional factory?”

This debate is not only fascinating but illustrates a possible conflict between the notion of Open-Source technology and sustainable business.

This summer, I read the book Wikinomics,  by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams (cover below). They praise the concept of Open-Source as a positive revolution for companies, giving the example of IBM which spends $100M a year on the development of LINUX, an open-source operating system. They say opening up patents and copyright law will allow for collaboration on an unprecented scale which will benefit everyone. They call the new consumers, the “prosumers” as they will no longer buy passively but will know the inner-workings of their products and will be able to improve/hack them.

This is already happening with Arduino, Processing, FabLab, Hackspace…etc…communities in which people hack the Microsoft Kinect (video below) or Samsung/Android phones or any other devices with an open API (application programming interface) to create a new collaborative technology or pieces of art.

 

This whole debate resonnates within the architectural world in which Architects are often replaced by enthusiastic self-builders. With information being increasingly available online, knowledge will not necessarily be in our mind anymore but mostly on the web. What will remain in our minds is intelligence and decision on how and where to apply it.

Many questions arrise from it: How do we help self-builders or prosummers and do we want to help them? How do we offer our talent, our own experience to people that can technically do what we are suppose to do just by googling it? Can a business still be sustainable if it discloses all its innovations?