New technique uses shadow to create images on concrete

A German company has received patents for a technique that uses natural light and shadows to display photo quality images in concrete.

The Reckli system uses Vectogramm technology, a computer-based method for transferring image data to form liners, creating a surface pattern that may vary from fine to coarse, depending on the resolution of the image.

“The different forms of light outside will give the concrete certain shades,” said Irene Legault, a customer service representative for Distrimat, a Canadian company that distributes Reckli’s products in North America.

Vectogramm form liners are made up of vertical lines that have varying widths and depth. When a customer brings in a photograph, Reckli uses a computer to scan the photo and then convert it into 256 shades of gray, giving the appearance of a continuous-tone, black-and-white photograph. Then the reproduced photo is made into a form liner, which in turn is used to make a concrete form.

The cost of a mold ranges from $50 to $70 per square foot. Any image in standard graphic format can be used.

“With the Vectogramm, [an architect] can choose to have an image of his choice, for example a well-known person, and put the picture of the person in concrete on the wall,” Legault said. “It is different than having a name on display; concrete can last 2,000 years.” One mold also could be repeated over an entire building to create a uniform effect.

Such patterned concrete is most often used on the exterior of institutions, including hospitals, museums, schools, libraries or court houses. Several North American cities and states are planning to display images on sound wall barriers surrounding roadways.

Reckli’s Vectogramm form liners were launched in North America in January at the World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas. Distrimat holds the exclusive rights for North American Reckli products. For more information on Reckli products, contact Distrimat’s president, Yves Royer, at [email protected] or visit