3D Concrete Printing: an innovative construction process

A 1 ton reinforced concrete architectural piece has been produced to demonstrate the potential of the process and is the first in a series of components to be manufactured.

Modern Architecture is demanding more and more from the design of buildings and we are now reaching a point where these designs cannot be realised using current state-of-the-art construction technologies. New developments in construction manufacturing technology are needed.

Additive manufacturing techniques are able to build physical objects directly from computer generated instructions, which means that you can create complicated shapes that cannot be manufactured by conventional processes. The machines that translate the coded instructions into a real object produce quite small components and are often used for prototyping new products as part of the design process.

These machines can be used to solve some of the complexity issues found in construction if they can be scaled up to produce massive parts out of appropriate material. Concrete Printing is one such process and uses a type of concrete that is deposited very precisely under computer control.

The research group Freeform Construction Project at Loughborough University has been inspired by 3D printing, an additive manufacturing process. Here, information created from computer generated models is exported to a 3D printer, which then builds up a model, or a component, layer by layer. The virtual model is, in effect, materialized. At Loughborough, instead of using powder and glue, they are experimenting with concrete, to create large scale building components.

Concrete printing works on the basis of a highly controlled extrusion of cement based mortar, which is precisely positioned according to computer data. The process has the potential to create architecture that is more unique in form, but crucially, components do not have to be made from solid material, and so can use resources more efficiently than traditional techniques.

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