Adapa – Breaking the Mould
Adapa is using innovative mould technology to help create revolutionary curved architecture.
Adapa was founded about ten years ago by two friends from university, students in architecture and structural engineering. The pair had been looking at the challenges in producing curved panels and curved surfaces for buildings and decided they could find a smarter solution, so founded a development company to do just that.
“After about five years of development and testing a lot of different methods of putting components together they ended up with a prototype made of the cheapest possible material they could find to keep the price down, but they still weren’t happy with it,” says Claus Lokke, CEO of Adapa. “I joined the company shortly after that when there was a possibility the company could close a deal in the Middle East. At the time we were far enough into the technology development for the customer to take the risk and use our technology as the benefits to them were of significant scale.”
That deal would see Adapa working alongside the company behind the Kuwait International Airport project. They contacted Adapa asking for a test mould that they could try out in Ankara, Turkey. It was the beginning of a huge project for Adapa, a game-changer for a small start-up.
“Shortly after that followed a process where we ramped up our production and set up our field engineering team in the Middle East,” Lokke recalls. “We needed to deliver the finished product within a few months of signing the contract, delivering 85 adaptive moulds, the biggest being ten by ten metres in size.”
Adapa’s first big project was a huge challenge, as the design that had been planned for the airport had so many unique curves that if one-off moulds had to be made for each individual shape Lokke tells us, the precast production facility may have been just as big as the airport terminal project.
“There were only three repetitions of curves similar to any other,” he tells us. “But using our technology, they did not need any storage as all mould shapes are digitally stored in 3d CAD files on our computer, and then used by Adapa’s adaptive mould machines tool to shape the casting surface.”
The solution Adapa has developed is unique, not only in terms of ease of use and time saved but also in terms of environmental impact.
“We are able to take a design from the drawing board to the final production of the curved surface with no media breaks. It saves about three-quarters of the price over producing traditionally,” Lokke explains. “There is also the time factor. In only five minutes you can change the shape of our moulds where a full new fixed mould would take you about one or two weeks to produce. As the focus on environmental footprint increases, architects prefer our technology to be used over one-off moulds done in polystyrene, a material that is just a waste material with a huge CO2 emission footprint. Our adaptive moulds are reusable for thousands of castings.”
Adapa has already had some fantastic successes in the concrete architectural sector, but already the company is looking to diversify.
“At the moment we’ve produced a lot of moulds for the concrete industry, but concrete has to harden on the surface of the mould and that takes you the better part of a day,” Lokke points out. “That means you can only make one rotation a day, possibly two if you add chemicals to make it harden quicker.”
The composites sector is on the ascendant, and Adapa can do valuable work here.
“We’re seeing an increase in all kinds of composites, from heavy plastic composites to lighter foam materials used in shipyards, aerospace, or cars,” Lokke says. “We’ve had interest from all areas of the industry. We think the good experience we have had within the concrete sector, due to a lot of curved square metres, will be even bigger in the composite sector where the production cycles are much higher.”
As far as adapting the technology goes, it is not a huge leap, with the technology for moulding concrete being basically the same as for composites.
“There is a difference in the tolerance demands,” Lokke informs us. “We have to make sure we are getting much lower tolerances. We can at the moment get close to plus-minus 0.3mm on the electrical actuators, whereas tolerances on top of the membrane are minimum plus-minus 1.5mm.”
Another area for potential development is curved glass, which has its own technical obstacles.
“We’ve been doing additional tests with glass moulds, and the problem there is not really the tolerance as much as the heat you have to put on top of the mould,” says Lokke. “You need to add 720 degrees before the glass is getting into shape. But the first test was successful and made a very, very nice surface so that’s an area we’re looking into.”
However, Adapa also has more plans for concrete. So far, the company’s work has been primarily in the decorative space, but Lokke tells us the technology can be used for mould that has to be the structural support of a building.
“We have just completed a development in construction concrete where the weight of the building is supported by structures based on our technology,” he tells us proudly.
In any construction project, the most important element is a strong foundation, and there is no doubt Adapa has that. Now it is looking to go further, building itself into an international business. Already the company has partners in North and South America, and they are looking to launch in Australia and the Far East as well.
“We’ve contacted companies in various parts of the world to set up dealerships or partnerships,” Lokke explains. “That is the way we’re trying to get around the world. Because we are the first ones doing this in the world it is only a question of time before someone goes in and tries to imitate what we do. We have patents to cover ourselves, but our real strength is the 11 years of technology development and market experience. With the constant movement and development of the company we are comfortable we have a successful head start on the competition, so we want to keep that momentum and continue to be the world-leading supplier of intelligent reconfigurable moulds for curved surfaces.”