A construction technology development project executed from idea to commissioning. The inflatable rapidly deployable structure coupled with fully equipped engineering and IoT systems, electronics, and HVAC systems enables businesses to expand their space and production capacity in the most cost-effective way.
2 → 9
In fall 2018, EnCata had to move and expand its manufacturing and R&D facilities to keep up with rapid growth. Finding 1,000 sq. meters (11,000 sq. ft) of suitable new engineering and manufacturing space quickly and within a 15 mile radius proved impossible so Encata had to try a new approach to quickly and cost-effectively find a new home
Construction Technology development
Mechanical design in CAD
Electronics and custom IoT development
Embedded Software development
Web App Development
CFD aerodynamic and structural FEA simulations
STM32 MCU and custom PCB
RS485 and industrial PLC
Custom weather station
Factory Digital Twin
Custom HVAC system development
MH-Z19B ndir CO2 sensor
ESP32 with Wi-Fi
Custom air pump system
EnCata offers comprehensive hardware and IoT product development services at a fraction of the cost
• R&D + design + manufacturing under ONE roof • Scale up and down your team • Intergrated hardware + software development • New technologies and research
Traditional technologies such as masonry and steel frame skeleton + architectural glass would not fit the budget, and developing preliminary architectural designs could have taken months. Another feasible option was to utilize readily available thermo insulated sandwich panels with insulation materials such as EPS (expanded polystyrene), mineral wool or PIR (polyurethane or polyisocyanurate).
In our conceptual search, we turned to the old pneumo-framed inflatable modular building first developed . in the Czech Republic in the 1970s as temporary warehousing for goods, vehicles and produce in the logistics, agriculture and defense industries. EnCata had previous experience with such buildings and we called the new approach “TheFir” technology.
The CAPEX costs and time required to complete the project looked appealing, and we progressed to design an entirely new building with climate control, engineering, and life support modules. The challenge and innovation in enabling the inflatable pneumatic structure to host advanced CNC manufacturing machinery and large office space for the entire R&D arm of EnCata.
There was a broad range of risks and challenges considered:
Foundation for heavy industrial machinery
HVAC and air conditioning to suit both harsh winters (-25 deg C / -13 deg. F) and hot summers (+40 deg C / 105 deg F)
Plumbing systems and sewage design
Faultless performance of the pneumo-framed construction
As part of concept development, we conducted a series of calculations and FEA/CFD simulations to support the concept: wind simulations, dynamic heat transfer simulations, and a multitude of simulations concerning fresh air circulation.
In order to upgrade the available pneumatic structure technology for office level use, a range of modules and solutions were developed, such as:
wide glass window;
special toilet modules were designed;
air ducts with smart HVAC modules;
special measures required to incorporate polymer coating room;
smart IoT building management electronics and software;
reserve inflating module for faultless structure performance (in case there is a punch hole present in one or several of the “balloons”)
Special scratch-resistant plastic floors (as easy to install jigsaws).
The inflatable modular building technology comprised ”balloon” elements (i.e., pneumo-frame modules or pneumatic inflatable modules) filled with compressed air (ΔP=+30 Pa). Small elevated pressure inside provides rigidity to the 2.5-meter thick “balloon” structures filled with air. The air inside of the dome structure acts as a noise and heat insulator. The advantage of inflatable pneumo-framed dome construction technology is mobility, fast installation and small size when disassembled. Installation of this type of prefabricated building is possible almost anywhere and does not require extensive use of heavy construction vehicles, site preparation, and thorough foundation fabrication.
All engineering design for the new inflatable dome was developed in CAD, including office and manufacturing floor planning, MEP and HVAC systems.
It took 2.5 months for EnCata to design the structural elements and new modules. When finished with the engineering, we proceeded to fabric procurement and modules production. In parallel with the massive procurement program, we started manufacturing special modules for the new office - all in-house.
When HVAC units and modules arrived, the industrial IoT systems commenced development. The IoT system consisted of several essential blocks, serving the need to command the HVAC system. These were:
a custom designed meteorological weather station, measuring: - outdoor atmospheric pressure - outdoor temperature - rain and snow precipitation - wind speed and direction - real-time CO2 measurement
An array of indoor sensors: - temperature sensors - CO2 sensors - pressure sensors - airflow sensors
The meteo station and internal sensors provide readings to the two (primary and backup) smart inflating modules that use the sensor data in a feedback loop to adjust “balloon” pressure according to atmospheric pressure, indoor/outdoor temperatures, and natural precipitation.
The temperature and CO2 sensors send readings to the control board that commands the heating and system that adjusts fresh air inflow and the temperature inside the pneumatic building.
The array of IoT devices and sensors allowed to build a detailed digital twin of the factory building, which is used in daily operations and building management.
The special fire-proof reinforced PVC fabric sealed in “frankfurter” cylinders (2.5 meters in diameter) when filled with air provides great heat insulation, while ensuring minimum leaks.
The lifespan for a typical PVC fabric employed for the construction is 20 years, suitable for a wide range of outdoor temperatures: from -35 deg. C to +70 deg. C.
The air pump system ensures that positive pressure is maintained constantly with necessary weather smart adjustments in place. The air pump of the inflating module works 1.5-2 minutes per hour, requiring 5 kW electricity power, which equates to 4 kWh of electricity used per day and 100-130 kWh of electricity per month.
The prefabricated core engineering and life support systems supplied in a shipping container provide additional modularity, mobility and portability, making it much easier to transport and install the FIR pneumatic building, for use as a school, new manufacturing factory, office space or warehouse.
The project was completed within 3.5 months and EnCata got the new building that hosts its core R&D activities and prototype manufacturing. With this innovative development project, EnCata raised the pneumatic inflatable building technology to a higher new level, where it has become a cost-effective and rapid option for the civil construction vertical.
The project continues to live as a separate spin-off, winning a competitive edge over other conventional construction technologies with its unrivalled mobility, low operational expenses and advanced IoT systems. An additional cloud-base software solution was developed for inflatable building design, spec composition and floor planning.
developing and commissioning building from scratch
were designed from scratch in order to meet the standards