Green Building  

3D Printing - The Future of Concrete

A team at Loughborough University rethinks concrete with 3D printer technology
 3D printing gives concrete unprecedented form

Check out this feature in our beautifully-rendered March issue of Construction Digital

The field of 3D printing is opening up some exciting architectural horizons for the construction industry, and stands to revolutionize the green building sector. This month, we asked Dr. Sungwoo Lim to briefly describe his team’s project at Loughborough University which could forever change the way the industry thinks about the concrete.

Written by Dr. Sungwoo Lim

3D Concrete Printing (3DCP) project was funded by EPSRC through the Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre at Loughborough University. 3DCP is a large-scale additive manufacturing process capable of producing full sized building components that gives architects a tremendous degree of design freedom because the components are manufactured directly from the architects’ digital model.

The research team scaled up the extrusion-based process and demonstrated a life-scale (1 by 2 by 0.8 m) construction piece called ‘Wonder Bench’ in 2010. The build material was developed specifically for the 3DCP process and the researchers demonstrated that the strength of the printed material was approximately 95% of the strength of the conventional cast equivalent.

The team's 'WonderBench' project1.jpg

Further developments to the process applied a curved-layered printing technique instead of conventional flat-layered technique in order to achieve smoother and stronger surfaces. As a result the world’s first doubly curved panels were manufactured complete with conformal voids inside and was subsequently exhibited in the Building Centre in 2011.

Currently the team is moving the system from 3-axis gantry to 7-axis robotic arm in order to maximize the printing quality, speed and size. A second generation printing system is under development, and the team is confident that there is a bright future for this new wave of construction technologies.

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