Staircase inventor takes 3D steps to success

Digital simulation, innovative use of materials, and 3D rapid prototyping enabled an entrepreneur from South Tyrol to turn an idea for a lightweight ready-made staircase into concrete reality.

The challenge facing staircase manufacturer Metall Concept was to build a made-to-measure concrete staircase quickly and economically, while satisfying demands for ease of assembly, noise absorption and thermal insulation. Its designer had the innovative idea of delivering the staircase sections as formwork which would remain an integral part of the staircase after assembly and concreting – traditionally the formwork serves only as a mould and is removed afterwards.

The problem was which materials to use and how to shape them. Materials experts from the TIS innovation park in nearby Bolzano were brought in to advise, and following simulations and 3D prototyping they suggested that polystyrene with a polyurethane coating would be ideal, and could be accurately cut by CNC milling machines.

Now on sale under the brandname SCAWO, the new design allows a staircase to be made-to-measure on site using standard building blocks. Because the blocks are hollow, each staircase section -  Metall Concept's managing director Kurt Wohlgemuth said there are typically one to four sections per staircase, depending on type - only weighs around 40kg. That should enable a single worker to put a staircase together in a couple of hours, ready for concreting, Wohlgemuth added.

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