TRUMPF, a German machine tool and laser manufacturer, recently opened its new “Smart Factory” in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The new space is both a factory and a showroom that turns high-tech machines and production processes into exhibition-like showpieces. The smart factory is fitted with digitally networked machines that present the entire sheet metal process chain as an interlinked, holistic process.
Designed by Barkow Leibinger, the new structure is divided into two volumes. The first is the showroom to the south and the second is the office and auditorium space to the north. These two volumes are connected at their corners and create two rectangular exterior zones – a driveway and parking lot to the southeast, and a curved terrace that overlooks an adjacent reflection pond to the northwest.
Courtesy of TRUMPF.
The building ranges from about 4.5 to 13-meters-tall and has a continuous pitched roof. At the front, the 12-meter-high glass facade presents the showroom space to passing traffic. The double glazing used has a low-E coating to protect against excessive solar radiation. The glass facades are made of anodized black aluminum and are recessed up to 1.5 meters back into the volume. Slim, recessed Corten steel I-Beams vertically divide the glass facades and support against horizontal wind loads. In addition to the glass, rust-colored corrugated Corten steel cladding was used on the exterior and charred wood siding was used on the facades of the inner courtyard and pond to achieve a softer appearance.
This charred wood look was brought inside the building, as well, in the form of ceiling-high wall paneling. Black steel, polished concrete floors, and expanded metal mesh juxtapose the wood surfaces on the interior.
The Skywalk. Courtesy of TRUMPF.
11 steel Vierendeel trusses, about 45 meters in length, span the showroom. These beams were customized from welded variable parts laser-cut on TRUMPF machines and function as another exhibit that showcases the company’s manufacturing machinery.
Running through these trusses at a perpendicular angle is a 6.5-meter-high skywalk that runs the length of the 180-foot-long production hall. The skywalk uses glass guardrails and grated flooring and has pocket-like inlets for special exhibits along the sides. It is connected to the “Control Center” that flanks the showroom on the east. The Control Center presents visitors with real-time production line performance figures via large touchscreen displays.
The Control Room. Courtesy of TRUMPF.
The lower volume on the building’s north side is linked to the showroom via public zones like the lobby, the water-facing café, and a large auditorium. An open-plan office space and meeting rooms for employees are also included and arranged around a central courtyard.
The building comprises over 50,000 sf and totaled $15 million in equipment investment and $15 million in construction investment. The new facility represents the fifth TRUMPF location in the U.S. and will house about 30 employees.
Courtesy of TRUMPF.