Loughborough University researchers unveil plans to commercialize 3D concrete printing

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In the future, could architects click-and-print their projects? (Photo: Skanksa)

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Following our recent report of a Chinese company printing 10 houses in a day, the potential for architects to essentially click-and-print complex large-scale projects on a regular basis has moved a step closer to reality. This week, the UK's Loughborough University announced a deal with construction company Skanska and architecture firm Foster + Partners to develop and commercialize 3D concrete printing.

The researchers at Loughborough's School of Civil and Building Engineering have been developing 3D concrete printing technology with a view to commercialization for seven years now, and have refined their technique to a system that comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development.

Much like Andrey Rudenko's 3D concrete printer, Loughborough's device extrudes cement-based mortar under very precise computer control into layers, in order to create building components, which are then joined together.

According to the researchers, this offers the potential to create extremely complex structures which would be far more difficult and time-intensive to realize with current construction techniques. For example, the 3D concrete printer could eventually create whole sections of a building, ready to be assembled with all necessary pipe and electrical fittings already integrated.

"3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours," said Rob Francis, Skanska's director of innovation and business improvement.

As of this writing, the researchers were unavailable to comment on some technical questions we posed, such as the current rate at which the concrete is printed, for example, but we'll let you know if and when we hear back. However, the video below provides a little more information on the project.

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